Lebanese Forces (militia)
|Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)|
|Leaders||Bachir Gemayel, Fadi Frem, Fouad Abou Nader, Elie Hobeika, Samir Geagea|
|Headquarters||Ashrafieh, Karantina, Amsheet|
|Originated as||aprox. 25,000 fighters|
|Allies||Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Lebanese Army, South Lebanon Army (SLA)|
|Opponents||Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Tigers Militia, Marada Brigade, Lebanese Forces – Executive Command, Lebanese Army, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian Army|
The Lebanese Forces (Arabic: القوات اللبنانية|al-quwwat al-lubnāniyya) were the main Christian militia of the Lebanese Civil War. Originally an umbrella organization for different Christian party militias, the Lebanese Forces later became a separate organization.
The Lebanese Front was informally organized in January 1976 under the leadership of Pierre Gemayel and Camille Chamoun. It began as a simple coordination or joint command between the predominantely Christian Kataeb Party/Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF), Tyous Team of Commandos (TTC), Ahrar/Tigers Militia, Al-Tanzim, Marada Brigade and Lebanese Renewal Party/Guardians of the Cedars (GoC) parties and their respective military wings. The main reason behind the formation of the Lebanese Front was to strengthen the Christian side against the challenge presented by the Lebanese National Movement (LNM), an umbrella alliance of leftist Muslim parties/militias backed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Rejectionist Front Palestinian guerrilla factions.
- 1 The Golden Years (1976-1982)
- 2 The Amine Gemayel years (1982–1988)
- 3 The Elimination War (1988–1990)
- 4 The Second Republic (1990–2005)
- 5 Known units
- 6 Weapons and equipment
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Golden Years (1976-1982)
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2011)|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2011)|
Christian East Beirut was ringed by heavily fortified Palestinian camps from which kidnappings and sniping against Lebanese civilians became a daily routine. Christian East Beirut became besieged by the PLO camps, with severe shortages of food and fuel. This unbearable situation was remedied by the Kataeb Regulatory Forces (most notably the BG Squad that was led by Bachir) and their allied Christian militias as they besieged the Palestinian camps embedded in Christian East Beirut one at a time and brought them down. The first was on 18 January 1976 when the heavily fortified Karantina camp, located near the strategic Beirut Harbor, was invaded: About 1,000 PLO fighters and civilians were killed. The Palestinian PLO and al-Saiqa forces retaliated by attacking the isolated defenseless Christian town of Damour about 20 miles south of Beirut on the coast, during the Damour massacre in which 1,000 Christian civilians were killed and 5,000 were sent fleeing north by boat, since all roads were blocked off. The Maronites retaliated with the invasion of the largest and strongest Palestinian refugee camp, Tel al-Zaatar that same year. Bachir, with his KRF militia units, also fought against the PLO and LNM militias at the Battle of the Hotels in central Beirut. The most important battle won by the Phalange for the control of the hotel district was the fighting over the possession of the Holiday Inn, due to its important strategic location. Before that battle, the Holiday Inn had been occupied by the PLO.
The Lebanese Forces was soon after established with an agreement that the direct military commander would be a Kataeb member and the vice-commander an Ahrar member.
Bachir led his troops in the infamous “Hundred Days War” in Lebanon in 1978, in which the Lebanese Forces successfully resisted the Syrian shelling and attacking of Eastern Beirut for about three months before an Arab-brokered agreement forced the Syrians to end the siege. Syrians took high buildings such as Burj Rizk Achrafieh and Burj El Murr using snipers and heavy weapons against civilians. The soldiers stayed for 90 days. Another major clash took place near the Sodeco area in Achrafieh where the Lebanese Forces fought ferociously and led the Syrian army out of the Rizk Building. At this time, Israel was the primary backer of the Lebanese Front’s militia.
In July 1980, following months of intra-Christian clashes between the Tigers, the militia of Dany, and the Phalangists, who by now were under the complete leadership of Bachir Gemayel, the Phalangists launched an operation in an attempt to stop the clashes within the Christian areas, and to unite all the Christian militias under Gemayel's command. This operation resulted in a massacre of tens of Tigers' members at the Marine beach resort in Safra, 25 km north of Beirut. Camille Chamoun's silence was interpreted as acceptance of Gemayel's controls, because he felt that the Tigers led by his son were getting out of his control.
In 1981 at Zahlé in the Beqaa, the largest Christian town in the East, confronted one of the biggest battles – both military and political – between the Lebanese Forces and the Syrian occupying forces. The Lebanese Forces was able to confront them even though there was a big mismatch in military capabilities and was able to reverse the result of the battle of 1981. This victory was due to the bravery of the inhabitants and 92 Lebanese Forces soldiers (L.F Special Forces: The Maghaweer) sent from Beirut. The Syrian occupying forces used all kind of weapons (heavy artillery, tanks, war planes…) against a peaceful town, and they cut all kind of backup that may come from the Mountain. Regardless of the very bad weather and heavy bombing, convoys were sent in the snow to Zahle. Two Lebanese Forces soldiers died on a hill due to bad weather, they were found later holding each other… till they died. The battle of Zahle gave the Lebanese Cause a new perspective in the International Communities, and the victory was both military and diplomatic. It made the Leadership of President Bashir Gemayel much stronger because of his leadership and important role in this battle. The battle started in April the 2nd 1981, and finished with a cease fire and Lebanese Police were sent to Zahle. The 92 Lebanese Forces heroes returned to Beirut on 1 July 1981.
In 1982, Bachir met with Hani Al-Hassan (representative of the PLO) and told him that Israel will enter and wipe them out. Bachir told him to leave Lebanon peacefully before it's too late. Hani left and no reply was given to Bachir.
Israel invaded Lebanon, arguing that a military intervention was necessary to root out PLO guerrillas from the southern part of the country. Israeli forces eventually moved towards Beirut and laid siege to the city, aiming to reshape the Lebanese political landscape and force the PLO out of Lebanon. By 1982, Israel had been the main supplier to the Lebanese Forces, giving them assistance in weapons, clothing, and training.
After the PLO had been expelled from the country to Tunisia, in a negotiated agreement, Bachir Gemayel became the youngest man to ever be elected as president of Lebanon. He was elected by the parliament in August; most Muslim members of parliament boycotted the vote.
On September 3, 1982, During the meeting, Begin demanded that Bachir sign a peace treaty with Israel as soon as he took office in return of Israel's earlier support of Lebanese Forces and he also told Bachir that the IDF will stay in South Lebanon if the Peace Treaty was not directly signed. Bachir was furious at Begin and told him that the Lebanese Forces did not fight for seven years and that they did not sacrifice thousands of soldiers to free Lebanon from the Syrian Army and the PLO so that Israel can take their place. The meeting ended in rage and both sides were not happy with each other.
Begin was reportedly angry at Bachir for his public denial of Israel's support. Bachir refused the immediate peace arguing that time is needed to reach consensus with Lebanese Muslims and the Arab nations. Bachir was quoted telling David Kimche, the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, few days earlier, “Please tell your people to be patient. I am committed to make peace with Israel, and I shall do it. But I need time - nine months, maximum one year. I need to mend my fences with the Arab countries, especially with Saudi Arabia, so that Lebanon can once again play its central role in the economy of the Middle East.”
In an attempt to fix the relations between Bachir and Begin, Ariel Sharon met secretly with Bachir in Bikfaya. In this meeting, they both agreed that, after 48 hours, the IDF will cooperate with the Lebanese Army to force the Syrian Army out of Lebanon. After that is done, the IDF would peacefully leave the Lebanese territory. Concerning the Peace Negotiation, Sharon agreed to give Bachir time to fix the internal conflicts before signing the negotiation. The next day, Begin's office issued a statement saying that the issues agreed upon between Bachir and Sharon were accepted.
Nine days before he was to take office, on September 14, 1982, Bachir was killed along with 25 others in a bomb explosion in the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafieh. The attack was carried out by Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), believed by many to have acted on instructions of the Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad. The next day, Israel moved to occupy the city, allowing Phalangist members under Elie Hobeika's command to enter the centrally located Sabra and the Shatila refugee camp; a massacre followed, in which Phalangists killed between 762-3,500 (number is disputed) civilians, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, causing great international uproar. Many cite the massacre as revenge for the killing of Bachir Gemayel and the countless massacres committed by the PLO against the Christian civilian population since 1975.
The Amine Gemayel years (1982–1988)
After the Israeli invasion, the IDF troops settled in the Chouf and Aley from party militias, the Lebanese Forces returned to the Christian villages which had been occupied by the PSP for seven years, and many Christian civilians from the districts returned after having fled earlier in the war. However, soon after, clashes broke out between the Lebanese Forces and the Druze militias who had now taken over the districts and had earlier kicked out the Christian inhabitants. The main Druze militiamen came from the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Walid Jumblatt, in alliance with the Syrian Army and Palestinian militants who had not departed Lebanon in 1982. For months, the two fought what would later be known as the "Mountain War." At the peak of the battle, Israeli troops infamously abandoned the area, handing over the best tactical positions to the Druze militias and their allies as punishment for the Christians' refusal of the May 17 peace agreement with Israel, and leaving the Christian forces sitting ducks ready to be slaughtered. Even though the Christian inhabitants of these regions were almost entirely with Jumblatt's PSP, and historically very loyal to Kamal Jumblatt, more than two thousand Christian civilians were massacred in the ensuing invasion, most of whom were killed after surrendering, where Druze would conduct the mssacres with almost medieval style weapons, and their Palestinian and Syrian allies would do most of the fighting. The total destruction of tens of villages, towns, churches and monasteries ensured the complete extermination of the 1,000 year old Christian mountain population.
Ironically, the Palestinian militants, the Christian's main enemies in the war, helped save countless civilian lives by going from town to town and warning the hapless civilians that the Druze militias were advancing and bent on killing them all, giving them enough time to flee the mountain.
The massacre is estimated to be the largest of the Lebanese war, and had reached almost genocidal proportions. At the same time, a small number of ill equipped Lebanese Forces troops also fought battles against the Palestinian and Druze militias and the Syrian troop east of the southern city of Sidon. The outcome was also a Progressive Socialist Party victory and a contiguous Druze Chouf district with access to Lebanese sea ports.
Jumblatt's militia then overstepped itself by attacking further into Souk El Gharb, a village held by the Lebanese Army's multi-confessional 8th Mechanised Infantry Brigade commanded by then Colonel Michel Aoun. The attackers were fiercely pushed back.
Internal power struggles
After the death of Bachir, his brother Amine Gemayel replaced him as President, and his cousin, Fadi Frem as commander of the Lebanese Forces. The two had a frosty relationship, and in 1984, pressure from Amine led to Frem's replacement by Fouad Abou Nader.
On March 12, 1985, Samir Geagea, Elie Hobeika and Karim Pakradouni rebelled against Abou Nader's command, ostensibly to take the Lebanese Forces back to its original path. The relationship between Geagea and Hobeika soon broke down, however, and Hobeika began secret negotiations with the Syrians. On December 28, 1985, he signed the Tripartite Accord, against the wishes of Geagea and most of the other leading Christian figures. Claiming that the Tripartite Accord gave Syria unlimited power in Lebanon, Geagea mobilized factions inside the Lebanese Forces and on January 15, 1986, attacked Hobeika's headquarters in Karantina. Hobeika surrendered and fled, first to Paris and subsequently to Damascus, Syria. He then moved to Zahlé with tens of his fighters where he prepared for an attack against East Beirut. On September 27, 1986, Hobeika's forces tried to take over the Achrafieh neighborhood of Beirut but the Lebanese Forces of Geagea's command held them back.
This failed attempt by Hobeika was the last episode of internal struggles in East Beirut during Amine Gemayel's mandate. As a result, the Lebanese Forces led by Geagea were the only major force on ground. During two years of frail peace, Geagea launched a drive to re-equip and reorganize the Lebanese Forces. He also instituted a social welfare program in areas controlled by Geagea's party. The Lebanese Forces also cut its relations with Israel and emphasized relations with the Arab states, mainly Iraq but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
The Elimination War (1988–1990)
Two rival governments contended for recognition following Amine Gemayel's departure from the Presidency in September 1988, one a mainly Christian government and the other a government of Muslims and Lebanese Leftists. The Lebanese Forces initially supported the military Christian government led by Gen. Michel Aoun, the commander of the Lebanese Army. However, clashes erupted between the Lebanese Forces and the Lebanese Army under the control of Michel Aoun on February 14, 1989. These clashes were stopped, and after a meeting in Bkerké, the Lebanese Forces handed the national ports which it controlled to Aoun's government under pressure from the Lebanese National army.
Geagea initially supported Aoun's "Liberation War" against the Syrian army, but then agreed to the Taif Agreement, which was signed by the Lebanese deputies on 24 October 1989 in Saudi Arabia and demanded an immediate ceasefire. Aoun's main objection to the Taif Agreement was its vagueness as to Syrian withdrawal from the country. He rejected it vowing that he "would not sign over the country." Fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out between the two, called the "Elimination War" on January 31, 1990.
The Second Republic (1990–2005)
After Aoun surrendered on 13 October 1990 to the rival Syrian-backed President Hrawi, Geagea was offered ministerial posts in the new government. He refused several times, because he was opposed to Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, and his relationship with the new government deteriorated. On March 23, 1994, the Lebanese government headed by Rafic Hariri ordered the dissolution of the LF. On April 21, 1994, Geagea was arrested on charges of setting a bomb in the church in Zouk, of instigating acts of violence, and of committing assassinations during the Lebanese Civil War. Although he was acquitted of the first charge, Geagea was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on several different counts, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. He was incarcerated in solitary confinement, with his access to the outside world severely restricted. Amnesty International criticized the conduct of the trials and demanded Geagea's release, and Geagea's supporters argued that the Syrian-controlled Lebanese government had used the alleged crimes as a pretext for jailing Geagea and banning an anti-Syrian party. Many members of the Lebanese Forces were arrested and brutally tortured in the period of 1993-1994. At least one died in Syrian custody and many others were severely injured.
LF Marines - an Israeli trained naval infantry unit trained in seaborne infiltration, naval infantry operations, and reconnaissance. The Marines also operated over a dozen small watercraft. Wore light blue berets
Force Sadem - a company sized commando unit known for their ruthlessness and ability. Wore a red beret.
101st Parachute Company - a parachute trained assault infantry unit.
al-Maghaweer or Commandos - several units of assault infantry existed.
Weapons and equipment
The Lebanese Forces’ early armoured corps in 1977 inherited a motley collection of captured light tanks, tank destroyers, APCs, and some models of locally-tailored armoured cars from the old Kataeb Regulatory Forces or handed over by the other, recently incorporated Christian factions. Thanks to the steady influx of Israeli aid, it grew from a small battalion to a powerful armoured corps by June 1982, capable of aligning some forty M50 Super Sherman medium tanks, twenty-two Ti-67 TIRAN (Israeli-modified T-54s) MBTs, M3/M9 Zahlam half-tracks, M113 and BTR-152 APCs. Following the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) withdrawal from west Beirut in October 1982, the LF salvaged one UR-416 armoured car left behind by the departing PLO forces, which was later captured by the Popular Nasserite Organization (PNO) militia during the battle for the Sidon bridgehead in 1985. The collapse of the Lebanese Army again in February 1984 allowed the LF to make up for their own losses incurred in the 1983-84 Mountain War by seizing seven M48A5 MBTs, five AMX-13 light tanks, and twelve Panhard AML-90 armoured cars. Later in the war, sixty-four T-55 and T-62 tanks, along with eighteen BTR-60PB (8x8) APCs were received from Iraq via Jordan. The LF also fielded three Soviet-built ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’ Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAG) captured from the PLO in West Beirut early in 1982, which they employed in their battles for control of east Beirut at the last phase of the war in 1988-90.
Transport and liaison vehicles
Besides tracked and wheeled AFVs, the LF also relied on a wide range of softskin, all-terrain military and ‘militarized’ civilian 'technicals' for both troop and supply transport. Like many other Lebanese militias, the LF continued to field a sizable force of gun-trucks fitted with Heavy Machine-guns, recoilless rifles, Anti-Aircraft autocannons, anti-tank rockets and light MBRLs. The light vehicles employed in this role included Soviet UAZ-469, US M151A1C ‘Mutt’, US M38A1 MD and South Korean KIA KM-41 jeeps, to Land Rover Series II-III, Toyota Land Cruiser (J40), Dodge Power Wagon W200 pick-ups, Israeli-produced AIL M325 Command Cars (‘Nun-Nun’) and Mercedes-Benz Unimog 416 light trucks. For logistical operations, heavier transportation trucks were used, mostly commandeered civilian Isuzu H-Series, GMC Topkick and Chevrolet Kodiak Heavy Duty Trucks, along with US M35 2½-ton (6x6) military trucks.
The LF also fielded an impressive artillery corps. Starting with some British 25 pounders seized from the Government Forces, they received French BF-50 (M-50) 155mm Howitzers from the Israelis, along with Soviet ZiS-3 76.2mm anti-tank guns and M-30 122mm (M-1938) Howitzers provided by Syria, followed in the 1980s by Type 59 130mm (a Chinese-made gun derivered from the Soviet M-46), BS-3 100mm (M-1944), D-30 122mm and D-20 152mm Howitzers of Soviet origin supplied by Israel, Jordan and Iraq. A number of FH-70 155mm Howitzers were also seized from the Lebanese Army in February 1984. The two latter Countries also provided to the LF substantial quantities of Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs), notably the BM-21 “Grad” 122mm, and BM-24 240mm systems mounted on Russian Zil-151/157 and Ural-375D (6x6) military trucks; such MBRLs could also be found installed on the back of Mercedes-Benz Unimog 416 (4x4) light trucks. The LF also employed Chinese versions (Types 63 and 81) of the towed BM-12 107mm and BM-14 140mm MBRLs captured from the PLO in 1982 (with some being re-installed on the rear tray of Israeli-made ‘Nun-Nun’ Command cars) as well as the Iraqi-supplied Romanian APR-40/Yugoslav RO-40 128mm system mounted on DAC-665T (6x6) trucks. Man-portable, shoulder-launched Soviet SA-7 ‘Grail’ AA missiles were equally employed by the LF, possibly obtained from Iraq. These same countries also gave the LF limited quantities of heavy mortars, such as the Israeli-made Soltam M-65 120mm and M-66 160mm heavy mortars mounted on ex-IDF half-tracks, and even received from Iraq in 1988 three Soviet 2S4 240mm towed breech-loading heavy mortars.
Apart from its ground forces, the LF maintained a naval branch employed as a shock force for military operations equipped with over a dozen sea crafts of various types. The inventory comprized two British-made Fairey Marine Tracker MkII Class patrol boats previously seized from the Lebanese Navy in January 1980, five Israeli-made Dabur-1 Class patrol boats acquired via the Mossad that same year and eight French-made Zodiac rubber inflatable boats, plus an unspecified number of converted civilian fishing crafts armed with Heavy machine-guns and RPG-7s.
- Bashir Gemayel
- Ehden massacre
- Guardians of the Cedars
- Kataeb Party
- Kataeb Regulatory Forces
- Lebanese Civil War
- Lebanese Front
- Lebanese National Movement
- Lebanese Youth Movement
- Marada Brigade
- Mountain War
- Sabra and Shatila Massacre
- Tigers Militia
- Tyous Team of Commandos
- Young Men (Lebanon)
- Harris (p. 162) notes "the massacre of 1,500 Palestinians, Shi'is, and others in Karantina and Maslakh, and the revenge killings of hundreds of Christians in Damur"
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- [dead link]
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- "Historical Fact: The Battle of Zahle - 1981". Lebanese Forces. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
- قصة الموارنة في الحرب - جوزيف أبو خليل
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- تاريخ في رجل ---> من قتل بشير - إنقلاب بشيري أم إنقلاب إسرائيلي
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- أسرار الحرب في لبنان
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- Moustafa El-Assad, Blue Steel 2: M-3 Halftracks in South Lebanon, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2006.
- Moustafa El-Assad, Blue Steel III: M-113 Carriers in South Lebanon, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2007.
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