Siege of Beirut

The Siege of Beirut took place in the summer of 1982, as part of the 1982 Lebanon War, which resulted from the breakdown of the cease-fire effected by the United Nations. The siege ended with the Palestinian Liberation Organization being forced out of Beirut and Lebanon.

Historical setting

The PLO moved its primary base of operations to Beirut in the early 1970s, after Black September in Jordan. The presence of Palestinian forces was one of the main reasons that led to a Christian-Muslim conflict in Lebanon in 1975–1976 which ended with the occupation of Lebanon by peace-keeping forces from several Arab countries, including Syria. Over the next few years, the Syrians and the PLO gained power in Lebanon, surpassing the ability of the official Lebanese government to curtail or control their actions. Throughout this time, artillery and rocket attacks were launched against Israel. Israel bombed targets in Lebanon and in 1978 launched a military invasion in to Southern Lebanon codenamed "Operation Litani".

In 1978, and again in 1981 and early 1982, the United Nations sponsored a cease-fire, and Israeli troops were withdrawn. In 1982 Israel re-invaded Lebanon following the attempted assassination of its ambassador in London, despite being aware that the attack had been carried out by the Abu Nidal faction, which was at war with Arafat's PLO. The architect of the war, Ariel Sharon (then Defense Minister), presented it to the Israeli government as a limited incursion into Southern Lebanon but took his troops to Beirut. The invasion was code-named "Operation Pines" or "Peace for Galilee", and was intended to weaken or evict the PLO and impose Bachir Gemayel, head of the Christian Phalange party, as President of Lebanon in order to get Lebanon to sign a peace treaty with Israel and bring the country into Israel's sphere of influence. This plan failed when Gemayel was assassinated not long after being elected President by the Lebanese parliament under Israeli pressure.

The Israeli forces invaded in a three-pronged attack. One group moved along the coastal road to Beirut, another aimed at cutting the main Beirut-Damascus road, and the third moved up along the Lebanon-Syria border, hoping to block Syrian reinforcements or interference. By the 11th of June, Israel had gained air superiority after shooting down a number of Syrian aircraft; Syria called for a cease-fire, and the majority of PLO guerrillas fled Tyre, Sidon, and other areas for Beirut.

The Siege

The ring around Beirut was closed by 13 June 1982, 7 days after the start of Israeli invasion to Lebanon. PLO and part of Syrian forces were isolated in the city.

Israel hoped to complete the siege as quickly as possible; their goal all along in invading Lebanon was for a quick and decisive victory. In addition, the United States, through their representative Philip Habib, was pushing for peace negotiations; the longer the siege took, the greater Arafat's bargaining power would be.

At first Israelis thought that Christian Maronite forces would eradicate the PLO quasi-government in Beirut, but it turned out that the Maronites were not prepared to undertake this task. For the IDF, the capture of Beirut in street-to-street fighting would have involved unacceptable level of casualties. This is why the method chosen, was the combination of military pressure and psychological warfare to persuade the PLO that the only alternative to surrender was total annihilation.[3]

For seven weeks, Israel attacked the city by sea, air, and land, cutting off food and water supplies, disconnecting the electricity, and securing the airport and some southern suburbs, but for the most part coming no closer to their goals. As with most sieges, the population of the city, thousands of civilians, suffered alongside the PLO guerrillas. Israel was roundly accused of indiscriminately shelling the city in addition to the other measures taken to weaken the PLO. By the end of the first week of July 500 buildings had been destroyed by Israeli shells and bombs.[4]

On 14 July, Ariel Sharon and chief of staff Rafael Eitan obtained Prime Minister Begin's support for a large scale operation to conquer West Beirut in order to achieve the eviction of the PLO. But the plan was rejected on 16 July by the full Israeli cabinet, out of concern for heavy loss of life. Some parties threatened to leave the ruling coalition if the plan was adopted.[5]

At the end of July, with negotiations still deadlocked, the IDF intensified its attacks. Mossad, using their Phalangist contacts, sent Arab agents into Beirut with car bombs in order to terrorize the Palestinians into submission and the Lebanese to increase pressure for their departure. Dozens of people died as a result of these bombings. Some of the Israeli agents were caught and ultimately confessed.[5]

Israeli Air Forces (IAF) intensified missions specifically designed to assassinate Palestinian leaders – Yassir Arafat, Abu Jihad and Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad). The IAF were assisted by agents with transmitters on the ground. But though a number of apartment houses were destroyed with hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese killed or wounded, the leaders managed to evade bombings.[6]

On 10 August, when American envoy Philip Habib submitted a draft agreement to Israel, defense minister Sharon, probably impatient with what he regarded as American meddling, ordered a saturation bombing of Beirut, during which at least 300 people died. That bombing was followed by a protest to the Israeli government by President Ronald Reagan. In response, on 12 August, the Israeli cabinet stripped Ariel Sharon of most of his powers; he was not allowed to order the use of air force, armored force and artillery without agreement of the cabinet or prime-minister.[7]

During the siege, the Israelis secured several key locations in other parts of Lebanon, but did not manage to take the city before a peace agreement was finally implemented. Although Syria had agreed on 7 August, Israel, Lebanon, and the PLO finally agreed, with US mediation, on the 18th. On 21 August, 350 French paratroopers arrived in Beirut, followed by 800 US Marines and Italian Bersaglieri plus additional international peacekeepers (for a total force of 2,130) to supervise the removal of the PLO, first by ship and then overland, to Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria. Altogether 8500 PLO men were evacuated to Tunisia, and 2500 by land to other Arab countries.[7]


In the end, Israel succeeded in ending the rocket attacks for a very short period, and routing the PLO from Lebanon, but failed to weaken the PLO overall. The siege also saw the insubordination and subsequent dismissal of the 211th Armor Brigade commander, Eli Geva, who refused to lead his forces into the city, arguing this would result in "the excessive killings of civilians."

Following the siege of Beirut, Arafat fled to Greece, and then to Tunis, establishing a new headquarters there. PLO fedayeen continued to operate out of Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Iraq, and the Sudan, as well as within Israeli-controlled territory.

International reaction

  • United States United States: The siege was condemned by Israel's traditional close ally, the United States, who warned Israel that weaponry provided by the United States was only to be used for defensive purposes.[8] The U.S. government at one point even considered threatening sanctions against Israel in order to stop Israel from launching an assault on West Beirut in August 1982. It was reported by Ottawa Citizen (originally from a NYT interview) that during one of two phone conversations on 12 August between US president Ronald Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Reagan angrily described the bombing of West Beirut as a "holocaust".[9]
  • Israel Israel: While Prime Minister Begin did not deny that civilians were hurt, and he reportedly expressed regrets over the loss of innocent life, he stressed that their deaths were "...not the Israelis' fault".[9]
  • Soviet Union Soviet Union: The Soviet Union tried to pass a United Nations resolution calling for a worldwide arms embargo on Israel, which was vetoed by the U.S.[8][9]


Decades after the siege, the event was cited by Osama bin Laden as a major reason for the September 11, 2001, attacks.

God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the Towers, but after the situation became unbearable—and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon—I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were those of 1982 and the events that followed—when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way: to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we were tasting and to stop killing our children and women.

— Osama bin Laden, 2004[10]

See also


  1. ^ Who won the Battle of Fallujah?, Jonathan F. Keiler at "Dating from the siege of Beirut in 1982, Israel has practiced a complex and limited form of urban warfare. In Beirut, this involved a cordon around the city, accompanied by limited attacks with artillery, ground, and air forces to put pressure on the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Syrian forces inside. The IDF did not launch a general assault on the city; it awaited a political solution that resulted in evacuation of enemy forces under the auspices of outside powers. Despite the IDF's restraint, it was depicted as little short of barbaric by much of the international media. The PLO's evacuation was treated as a victory parade, rather than the retreat it was, and the PLO lived to fight another day. The battle was a tactical victory for Israel, but a strategic defeat."
  2. ^ Gabriel, Richard, A, Operation Peace for Galilee, The Israeli-PLO War in Lebanon, New York: Hill & Wang. 1984, p. 164, 165, ISBN 0-8090-7454-0
  3. ^ Shlaim 1999 p.410
  4. ^ Shlaim 1999 p.411
  5. ^ a b Morris. 2001 p.535
  6. ^ Morris 2001 pp.535–36
  7. ^ a b Shlaim 1999 p.413
  8. ^ a b When Push Comes to Shove: Israel flouts U.S. diplomacy with an attack on Beirut, Time, August 16, 1982.
  9. ^ a b c "Begin 'deeply hurt' by Reagan in call on Beirut 'holocaust'". Ottawa Citizen. 30 August 1982. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  10. ^ "God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers". The Guardian. London. October 30, 2004. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  • An Nahar, September 1, 1982.
  • Davis, M. Thomas. 40 km into Lebanon. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press (1987), pp. 96–101.
  • Davis, Paul K. Besieged: 100 Great Sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000).
  • Gabriel, Richard. Operation Peace for Galilee: The Israel-PLO War in Lebanon. New York: Hill and Wang (1984).
  • Rabinovich, Itmar. The War for Lebanon 1970–1985. Ithaca: Cornell University Press (1985).
  • Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall. New York: Norton press (1999)
  • Morris, Benny The righteous victims. New York: Vintage books (2001)

External links

Coordinates: 33°53′23″N 35°30′01″E / 33.8897°N 35.5003°E

1982 Lebanon War

The 1982 Lebanon War, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee (Hebrew: מבצע שלום הגליל, or מבצע של"ג‎ Mivtsa Shlom HaGalil or Mivtsa Sheleg) by the Israeli government, later known in Israel as the Lebanon War or the First Lebanon War (Hebrew: מלחמת לבנון הראשונה‎, Milhemet Levanon Harishona), and known in Lebanon as "the invasion" (Arabic: الاجتياح‎, Al-ijtiyāḥ), began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded southern Lebanon, after repeated attacks and counter-attacks between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in southern Lebanon and the IDF that had caused civilian casualties on both sides of the border. The military operation was launched after gunmen from Abu Nidal's organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin blamed Abu Nidal's enemy, the PLO, for the incident, and treated the incident as a casus belli for the invasion.After attacking the PLO – as well as Syrian, leftist, and Muslim Lebanese forces – the Israeli military, in cooperation with the Maronite allies and the self-proclaimed Free Lebanon State, occupied southern Lebanon, eventually surrounding the PLO and elements of the Syrian Army. Surrounded in West Beirut and subjected to heavy bombardment, the PLO forces and their allies negotiated passage from Lebanon with the aid of United States Special Envoy Philip Habib and the protection of international peacekeepers. The PLO, under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat, had relocated its headquarters to Tripoli in June 1982. By expelling the PLO, removing Syrian influence over Lebanon, and installing a pro-Israeli Christian government led by President Bachir Gemayel, Israel hoped to sign a treaty which Menachem Begin promised would give Israel "forty years of peace".Following the assassination of Gemayel in September 1982, Israel's position in Beirut became untenable and the signing of a peace treaty became increasingly unlikely. Outrage following Israel's role in the Phalangist-perpetrated Sabra and Shatila massacre, of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, and Israeli popular disillusionment with the war would lead to a gradual withdrawal from Beirut to the areas claimed by the self-proclaimed Free Lebanon State in southern Lebanon (later to become the South Lebanon security belt), which was initiated following the 17 May Agreement and Syria's change of attitude towards the PLO. After Israeli forces withdrew from most of Lebanon, the War of the Camps broke out between Lebanese factions, the remains of the PLO and Syria, in which Syria fought its former Palestinian allies. At the same time, Shi'a militant groups began consolidating and waging a low-intensity guerrilla war over the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, leading to 15 years of low-scale armed conflict. The Lebanese Civil War would continue until 1990, at which point Syria had established complete dominance over Lebanon.

500th Brigade

The Israeli Armor Corps 500 Brigade, also known as the Kfir (Young Lion) Formation, was a regular-service tank brigade which existed from 1972 to 2003. It was originally composed of three battalions: the Romach (429), Se'ara (430), and Gur (433) battalions. During the Yom Kippur War, it fought in the battle over the city of Suez under the 162nd Division, and was led by Colonel Aryeh Keren. Primarily relying on the Magach tank, it was situated in the Sinai border, until the beginning of the withdrawal following the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, when it was moved to the Jordan valley. During the 1982 Lebanon War, it fought in the central front (again under the 162nd Division), where it took part in the Siege of Beirut.

Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara

Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara is a self-taught Palestinian artist who has meticulously worked on archiving the recent histories of the Palestinian people. He was born in 1933 at Al-Dawayima, near Al Khalil (Hebron), in Palestine, and currently lives and works in Amman. Mosallam recreates scenes from daily life in his lost Palestinian home that have remained vivid in his mind since his expulsion from the village of Al-Dawayima in 1948. Mosallam has also produced extensive documentation of the recent Palestinian struggle and liberation movements in the form of painted reliefs. This “painted archive” corpus is valid as a first representation of a community writing its own history and not just showcasing it as a collection of images.

Agreement on Movement and Access

The Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), signed on 15 November 2005. The treaty aimed improvement of Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity within the Palestinian territories, and open the Gaza–Egypt border.

Battle of Beirut

Beirut in Lebanon has been the site of several battles in history.

Battle of Beirut (1840), a battle during the Egyptian–Ottoman War (1839–1841)

Battle of Beirut (1912), a naval battle during the Italo-Turkish War

Battle of Beirut (1941), a battle over control of the city during World War II

Siege of Beirut (1982), a siege by Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War

Eli Geva

Eli Geva (Hebrew: אלי גבע‎; born 1950) is an Israeli brigade commander, who during the Siege of Beirut (in the early stage of the 1982 Lebanon War), refused to lead his forces into the city for moral reasons which he termed "endangerment of both soldiers and civilians in urban warfare". The Israeli Chief of Staff, Rafael Eitan, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin attempted to negotiate with Geva, but he insisted and was consequently dismissed from the Israel Defense Forces. At the time, Geva was the youngest Colonel in the IDF.The event drew a great deal of controversy in Israel at the time, and to this day remains a symbol of moral insubordination in the Israeli military. Geva initially declined to grant press interviews, but reversed himself after the Sabra and Shatila massacres and granted an interview to Israeli State Radio which aired prior to the Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv on September 25, 1982.The New York Times reported on Colonel Geva's interview with Menachem Begin:

Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who spent 45 minutes with the colonel before he asked to be relieved of his command, recalled today that the officer had told him: "I am a brigade commander. I look through my binoculars and I see children."

Mr. Begin said he asked the colonel, "Did you get an order to kill those children?" The officer said there had been no such order and Mr. Begin asked, "So what are you complaining about?"

In 2014 Norwegian songwriter Moddi released a song named after Eli Geva in support of his insubordination and pacifism. This song was written by Richard Burgess in 1982 for Norwegian singer Birgitte Grimstad. She was persuaded to refrain from performing the song on her Israel tour the same year.

Kiryat Shmona massacre

The Kiryat Shmona massacre was an attack by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command on civilians in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona on 11 April 1974. Eighteen people were killed, nearly half of them children, and 16 were wounded.

Lebanese Civil War

The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية‎ – Al-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities. As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon. There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.Before the war, Lebanon was multisectarian, with Sunni Muslims and Christians being the majorities in the coastal cities, Shia Muslims being mainly based in the south and the Beqaa Valley to the east, and with the mountain populations being mostly Druze and Christian. The government of Lebanon had been run under a significant influence of the elites among the Maronite Christians. The link between politics and religion had been reinforced under the mandate of the French colonial powers from 1920 to 1943, and the parliamentary structure favored a leading position for its Christian population. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and left-wing groups opposed the pro-western government. The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon during the 1948 and 1967 exoduses contributed to shifting the demographic balance in favor of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet-aligned Arab countries.Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces (mainly from the Palestine Liberation Organization) began in 1975, then Leftist, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups formed an alliance with the Palestinians. During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably. Furthermore, foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria, became involved in the war and fought alongside different factions. Peace keeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon and UNIFIL, were also stationed in Lebanon.

The 1989 Taif Agreement marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January 1989, a committee appointed by the Arab League began to formulate solutions to the conflict. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. In May 1991, the militias were dissolved, with the exception of Hezbollah, while the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution. Religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias remained after the war.

Lists of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel

These are lists of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant groups.

Operation Determined Path

Operation "Determined Path" (Hebrew: מבצע דרך נחושה‎ Mivtza Derekh Nehosha) was a military operation carried out by the Israel Defense Forces, starting June 22, 2002, following Operation "Defensive Shield", with the goal of reaching some of the unreached objectives set forth for Defensive Shield, especially in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian Liberation Front

The Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) (جبهة التحرير الفلسطينية) is a Palestinian political faction.

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front

The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF, occasionally abbr. PSF), (Arabic: جبهة النضال الشعبي الفلسطيني, Jabhet Al-Nedal Al-Sha'abi Al-Falestini), is a Palestinian political party. The group was led by Dr. Samir Ghawshah until his death in 2009. Despite holding a seat in the executive council in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), PPSF is generally considered to have a limited influence over Palestinian politics.

Philip Habib

Philip Charles Habib (February 25, 1920 – May 25, 1992) was an American career diplomat. Called one of the "pre-eminent career diplomats in American post-war history", he was best known for his work as Ronald Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East 1981–83. In that role he averted an Israel-Syria war and an Israel-PLO war in 1981, then negotiated a peaceful end to Israel's 1982 siege of Beirut. In 1986 he was instrumental in ending Ferdinand Marcos's attempt to steal the 1986 presidential election in the Philippines. As U.S. special envoy to Central America in 1986–87, he helped Costa Rican president Oscar Arias shape and sell the peace plan that led to the end of the region's civil wars. He had come out of retirement to take each of those assignments. During his 30-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, he had mostly specialized in Asia. In 1968, he was instrumental in halting the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. After his death, The New York Times described him as "the outstanding professional diplomat of his generation in the United States."

Said al-Muragha

Col. Sa'eed Musa al-Muragha (Arabic: سعيد مُراغة or سعيد موسى‎) (born 1927 in Silwan – 29 January 2013) was a Palestinian militant better known as Abu Musa.

Santorini affair

The Santorini was a fishing boat used for weapons-smuggling, which was captured in May 2001 by the Israeli Shayetet 13 Naval Commando Unit. This was the first ship caught in an attempt to smuggle weapons to Palestinian-controlled territories. In May 2002, three of the Santorini's crew members were convicted of attempting to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 515

United Nations Security Council resolution 515, adopted on 29 July 1982, after recalling resolutions 512 (1982), 513 (1982) and the Geneva Conventions, the Council demanded that Israel lift the blockade on Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, to allow urgent aid to the civilian population there. It also requested the Secretary-General to transmit the text of the resolution to the Government of Israel and to monitor the implementation of Resolution 515.

The resolution passed with 14 votes to none; the United States did not participate in the voting. Israel did not implement the resolution.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 516

United Nations Security Council resolution 516, adopted on 1 August 1982, after recalling resolutions 508 (1982), 509 (1982), 512 (1982), 513 (1982) and 515 (1982), the Council demanded an immediate cessation of military activities between Israel and Lebanon, noting the violations of the ceasefire in Beirut.

The resolution then authorised the Secretary-General to deploy United Nations observers immediately in and around the Lebanese capital Beirut, and to report back on the situation no later than four hours from the adoption of this resolution.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 518

United Nations Security Council resolution 518, adopted unanimously on 12 August 1982, after recalling resolutions 508 (1982), 509 (1982), 512 (1982), 513 (1982), 515 (1982), 516 (1982) and 517 (1982), the Council again demanded that Israel and all other parties strictly observe the resolutions of the Security Council placed on them.

Resolution 518 continued by demanding the immediate lifting of all restrictions on the city of Beirut to permit free entry to humanitarian assistance. The resolution then requested the Secretary-General to report back on the implementation of Resolution 518 as soon as possible.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery (Hebrew: אורי אבנרי, also transliterated Uri Avneri; 10 September 1923 – 20 August 2018) was an Israeli writer, politician, and founder of the Gush peace movement. A member of the Irgun as a teenager, Avnery sat for two terms in the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the owner of the news magazine HaOlam HaZeh from 1950 until its closure in 1993.

He became known for crossing the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yassir Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including 1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem (2008); Israel's Vicious Circle (2008); and My Friend, the Enemy (1986).

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