By Laura Fawaz, TMO
The Lebanese Civil war officially ended in 1990, but the occupying Israeli forces still remained.
Our previous issues in this Lebanon series discussed the creation of this cedar country, as presented on its flag, the various religions tensions, and itâ€™s early French influences. All this evolved into two initials attacks, unraveling into a civil war that lasted from 1975 – 1990. During this time, Israeli forces invaded a vulnerable Lebanon. With its natural beauty, and snow-peaked mountains directly overlooking the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, all bringing in high tourism, Lebanon was an ideal target for Israel. Their first invasion was in 1978. Though shortly after, in accordance with a United Nations mandate, it was to withdraw from Lebanon, but instead only withdrew from all but a narrow strip along the border, thus still having access to all of southern Lebanon. This, along with corrupt political leaders within Lebanon, made it easy for Israeliâ€™s second invasion in 1982; this lasted until the year 2000.
When the civil war ended in 1990, 150,000 were people killed, 200,000 were wounded, and there were roughly 1 million new refugees. Lebanon fought so hard to become an independent nation, but was now faced with multiple occupiers. They were now determined not to let Lebanon slowly be dissolved into Israel, similar to Palestine. With the village of Bint Ja Bail, for example, whoâ€™s populated went from 15,000 people to less than 50 after the 1982 invasion. Bint Ja Bail conveniently became the base for the occupying Israeli soldiers, and as a result, the signs within the village were now in Hebrew instead of Arabic, with itâ€™s residents required to have visas to enter their own village. As a result, most of the residents of Bint Ja Bail, and other such villages of southern Lebanon that were dissolved, were either killed, taken as prisoners of war, or fled to another county.
But then on July 25th, 1993 Israel launched what the press described as its â€œbiggest military assault on Lebanonâ€ since the start of the 1982 invasion. During which Israeli forces damaged or destroyed thousands of houses and buildings, causing close to 300,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians from southern Lebanon to migrate towards Beirut and other areas outside of the combat zone. Israeli forces also targeted Lebanese infrastructure, (power stations, bridges, and roadways), in efforts to completely destroy daily Lebanese life, and to drive its people away from their homeland, therefore making it easier to takeover. Hezbollah responded with more rocket attacks on Israeli occupying targets.
By the time a US-arranged cease fire took place six days later, about 125 Lebanese were reported killed, along with three Syrians and three Israelis, while about 500,000 people were driven from their homes according to reports from Lebanon. Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics and has delivered lectures around the world at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and in New Delhi. He also published a report when the attacks took place in 1993, and described it as, â€œVillages were deserted, with many casualties and destruction of civilian dwellings by intensive bombardment.â€
The US government provides all necessary arms and machinery, and any required diplomatic support for Israel. Thus according to Chomsky, Western powers ignore international law, UN Charter resolutions and the Geneva Convention. As a result, Israeliâ€™s July 1993 attack was intended to advance their agenda, making it clear to the Arab states and Palestinians that they have no choice but to yield to the force exercised by Israel under US protection. On July 30th, Hezbollah announced that rocket attacks on northern Israel could only end â€œwith the complete and permanent halt of aggression against villages and civilians and the stopping of Israeli attacks from air, land and sea on all Lebanese territory.â€
And yet again, on April 11th, 1996, Operation Grapes of Wrath took place, this time lasting for 16 days. Israelâ€™s air and artillery attack on Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon was seen as massive all around the world, though no one stood up to officially condemn it. Israel forces launched 1,100 air raids and fired nearly 25,132 shells at Hezbollah targets in attempts to end shelling of northern Israel. Israeli shelling even went so far as to target a United Nations camp in Qana, Lebanon, killing 118 Lebanese civilians who sought shelter there. With Israeli attacks into Lebanon growing, the Lebanese people felt the need for a strong resistance movement within their country. This all lead to creating a stronger, more advanced Hezbollah, with one goal in mind, to free their independent land of oppressors and occupiers.
Israeli forces remained in control of south Lebanon until May 21st 2000. According to a New York Times article published on May 23rd, 2000, â€œFor the last two decades, Israeli troops have occupied an 11-mile-deep zone inside Lebanon, fighting alongside the 2,500-member, Israeli-equipped South Lebanon Army.â€
On Monday, May 22nd, Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed Hezbollah fighters, and their civilian followers, moving into the border zone. Six civilians were killed six and dozens wounded, according to Lebanese officials. Before dawn the next morning, the Israeli Army began evacuating troops and weapons from Bint Ja Bail, its second-largest base near the Lebanese border. For Israelis watching the televised images of the suddenly transformed border zone, it was the beginning of the end of a costly occupation that began with the invasion of Lebanon 25 years ago. Opinion polls within Israeli at the time show that Israelis overwhelmingly supported a withdrawal. â€œAll along the border, meanwhile, Israeli Army trucks continued to haul arms and other equipment out of Lebanon, while private Israeli crews erected electrified fences. It was unclear how many Israeli soldiers remain in Lebanese territory,â€ the New York Times reported on May 23rd, 2000.
Ehud Barakâ€™s, Israeli prime minister at the time, ordered the abrupt stealth pullout of Israeli troops, on the night of May 23rd, 2000. During which some local villagers claim they saw some elements of the Golani brigade sliding down the hill on their backs at the village of Maroun al-Ras. All while other Israeli occupation army units fled across the exiting points south of Aita Shaab and Bint Ja Bail, with Hezbollah resistance fighters hot on their tails. They were driving them out in efforts to take back control of their own land, their independent country. The Lebanese withdrawal was later used as an excuse for the Israelis to suspend peace talks with the Palestinians, or to release the Palestinian POW in Israeli jails. According to the UNIFIL, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, July 2000 report from the Secretary-General, warning, â€œthat while there had been enormous improvement, the situation in the Israel-Lebanon sector fell well short of peace, and the potential for serious incidents still existed.â€
So how do you live in a country that is coming down from multiple wars? Thereâ€™s more unrest than you may think, with hazards at every turn. Weâ€™ll hear first hand experiences attesting to this from people living in Lebanon, or vacationing there, post Israeli occupation, after May 25th, 2000, in next weekâ€™s issues on our Lebanon series.