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Syrian occupation of Lebanon: Wikis


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The Syrian occupation of Lebanon took place in Lebanon from 1976-2005.



The Lebanese civil war that began in April 1975 was the backdrop against which the Syrian military presence in Lebanon was established. Syria first tried to mediate between the different religious, political and national factions involved. In January 1976, its proposal to restore the limits to the Palestinian guerrilla presence in Lebanon that had been in place prior to the outbreak of the civil war, were welcomed by Maronites and conservative Muslims, but rejected by the Palestinian guerrillas and their Lebanese Druze-led and leftist allies. To deal with the opposition posed by this latter grouping which was normally allied with Syria, in June 1967, Syria dispatched Palestinian units under its control in Lebanon, and soon sent its own troops as well. Syria claims these interventions came in response to appeals from Christian villagers under attack by the leftists.[1]

By October 1976, Syria had done significant damage to the strength of the leftists and their Palestinian allies, but at a meeting of the Arab League, it was forced to accept a ceasefire. The League ministers decided to expand an existing small Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon. It grew to be a large deterrent force consisting almost entirely of Syrian troops. The Syrian military intervention was thus legitimized and received subsidies from the Arab League for its activities.[1]

Analyzing whether and when the Syrian presence was a military occupation under international law, Gerhard von Glahn writes that "The mandate of the Force was renewed several times before it officially expired on July 27, 1982, at the time of the Israeli siege of Beirut. The Lebanese government refused to request that the mandate be renewed by the Arab League. Instead, in September 1986, Lebanon requested an end to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. It would appear that, lacking legal authority from both Lebanon and the Arab League, Syria's military forces had to be regarded henceforth as illegal occupants of Lebanon."[2]

In the late 1980s, General Michel Aoun was appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President Amine Gemayel, a controversial move since Aoun was a Maronite Christian and the post was by unwritten convention reserved for a Sunni Muslim. Muslim ministers refused to serve in Aoun's government, which was not recognised by Syria. Two rival administrations were formed: a military one under Aoun in East Beirut and a civilian one under Selim el-Hoss based in West Beirut; the latter gained the support of the Syrians. Aoun opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon, citing the 1982 UN Security Council Resolution 520.[3] The Syrian military remained in Lebanon; after a successful campaign against the Lebanese Forces militia who had controlled Beirut port, Aoun, now with massive popular support in his East Beirut enclave, declared a "War of Liberation" against the Syrian forces. Fighting began on 14 March 1989. Casualties among civilians on both sides from indiscriminate artillery bombardments across the front line were numerous. Aoun initially received a greater degree of international support than el-Hoss, but this ended abruptly with the American build-up for war with Iraq over Kuwait. Aoun had received considerable support from the Iraqi government, anxious to weaken the rival Baathist regime in Damascus; in October 1990 Syrian forces took the presidential palace at Baabda by storm. Aoun took refuge in the French embassy and was later exiled from Lebanon to France. Circumstances surrounding his exile are controversial; his apprehension and exile are variously attributed to Syrian forces, Israeli Defense Forces, Shiite militias, and the Lebanese Forces militia of Samir Geagea.

Syrian forces remained in Lebanon, exercising considerable influence. In 1991, a Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination, signed between Lebanon and Syria, legitimized the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. It stipulated that Lebanon would not be made a threat to Syria's security and that Syria was responsible for protecting Lebanon from external threats. In September that same year a Defense and Security Pact was enacted between the two countries.[4]

After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the death of Hafez Al-Assad in 2000, the Syrian military presence faced fierce criticism and resistance from the Lebanese population. The military presence ended on 26 April 2005 after the Cedar Revolution that took place as a reaction to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005.

In October 2008, both Syria and Lebanon decided to have diplomatic relationships by establishing embassies for the first time in history since both countries gained their national independence during the 1940s. Two months later, the Syrian Embassy was opened in Beirut. In March 2009, Lebanon followed and opened its embassy in Damascus.


  1. ^ a b Weisburd, 1997, pp. 156-157.
  2. ^ Von Glahn, Gerhard (1992). Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co. pp. 687–688. ISBN 0-02-423175-4.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Ginat et al., 2002, p. 196.


  • Ginat, J.; Perkins, Edward Joseph; Corr, Edwin G. (2002). The Middle East peace process: vision versus reality (Illustrated ed.). University of Oklahoma Press.  
  • Weisburd, Arthur Mark (1997). Use of force: the practice of states since World War II. Penn State Press.  

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