- 2.1Ancient Lebanon:
- 2.2Maronites, Druze, and the Crusades:
- 2.1Ottoman Lebanon and French Mandate:
- 2.1Independence from France:
- 2.1Civil War and Occupation:
- 2.2Instability and Syrian War Spillover:
- 2.12019–2020 Crisis:
- 5.1Flag of Lebanon:
Lebanon’s unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, its prime minister be Sunni Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister be Greek Orthodox.
Lebanon’s history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a regional center for finance and trade.
In May 1948, Lebanon supported neighboring Arab countries in a war against Israel. While some irregular forces crossed the border and carried out minor skirmishes against Israel, it was without the support of the Lebanese government, and Lebanese troops did not officially invade. Lebanon agreed to support the forces with covering artillery fire, armored cars, volunteers and logistical support. On 5–6 June 1948, the Lebanese army – led by the then Minister of National Defence, Emir Majid Arslan – captured Al-Malkiyya. This was Lebanon’s only success in the war.
100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon because of the war. Israel did not permit their return after the cease-fire. As of 2017 between 174,000 and 450,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon with about half in refugee camps (although these are often decades old and resemble neighborhoods). Palestinians often cannot obtain Lebanese citizenship or even Lebanese identity cards and are legally barred from owning property or performing certain occupations (including law, medicine, and engineering). According to Human Rights Watch, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in “appalling social and economic conditions.”
In 1958, during the last months of President Camille Chamoun’s term, an insurrection broke out, instigated by Lebanese Muslims who wanted to make Lebanon a member of the United Arab Republic. Chamoun requested assistance, and 5,000 United States Marines were briefly dispatched to Beirut on 15 July. After the crisis, a new government was formed, led by the popular former general Fuad Chehab.
With the defeat of the PLO in Jordan, many Palestinian militants relocated to Lebanon, increasing their armed campaign against Israel. The relocation of Palestinian bases also led to increasing sectarian tensions between Palestinians versus the Maronites and other Lebanese factions.
Civil War and Occupation:
In 1975, following increasing sectarian tensions, largely boosted by Palestinian militant relocation into South Lebanon, a full-scale civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War pitted a coalition of Christian groups against the joint forces of the PLO, left-wing Druze and Muslim militias. In June 1976, Lebanese President Elias Sarkis asked for the Syrian Army to intervene on the side of the Christians and help restore peace. In October 1976 the Arab League agreed to establish a predominantly Syrian Arab Deterrent Force, which was charged with restoring calm.
PLO attacks from Lebanon into Israel in 1977 and 1978 escalated tensions between the countries. On 11 March 1978, eleven Fatah fighters landed on a beach in northern Israel and proceeded to hijack two buses full of passengers on the Haifa – Tel-Aviv road, shooting at passing vehicles in what became known as the Coastal Road massacre. They killed 37 and wounded 76 Israelis before being killed in a firefight with Israeli forces. Israel invaded Lebanon four days later in Operation Litani. The Israeli Army occupied most of the area south of the Litani River. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with attempting to establish peace.