Zgharta Liberation Army
|Marada Brigade/Zgharta Liberation Army (ZLA)|
|Participant in Lebanese Civil War|
Old flag of the Marada Brigade/ZLA (1967-1990).
|Groups||Lebanese Front, Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Lebanese National Salvation Front (LNSF)|
|Leaders||Tony Frangieh, Robert Frangieh, Suleiman Frangieh Jr.|
|Originated as||700 men|
|Allies||Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF), Tigers Militia, Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), Army of Free Lebanon (AFL), Jammoul, Syrian Army|
|Opponents||Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Lebanese Forces, Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Lebanese Army|
The Zgharta Liberation Army or Zghartawi Liberation Army (abbreviation: ZLA) (in French: Armée de Liberation de Zgharta, ALZ) was the party militia of the Lebanese Marada Movement during the Lebanese Civil War. The militia was formed in 1967 on President Suleiman Frangieh's instructions as the Marada Brigade (also translated as Mardaite Brigade, in Arabic: Liwa' al-Marada) seven years before the war began. The force was initially commanded by Sulayman Franjieh's son, Tony Frangieh. It operated mainly out of Tripoli and Zgharta, but it also fought in Beirut. The ZLA fought against various Palestinian and Lebanese Muslim militias as well as the Lebanese Forces in Bcharre and Ehden.
Military structure and organisation
Early stages and expansion 1967-1978
The Marada's ZLA military wing was formed in 1967 and at the outbreak of the war in April 1975, they numbered just 700 men armed with obsolete firearms acquired in the black market.
By January 1976, the Frangieh-controlled militia ranks had swollen to 2,400 troops, a total comprising 800 full-time fighters and 1,500 irregulars. At its height in the late 1970s, the Al-Marada mustered some 3,500 men and women  equipped with small-arms drawn from LAF reserves and ISF police stations or supplied by Syria, backed by a small armoured corps made of ex-Lebanese Army M113 APCs and gun-trucks, the latter being commandeered Land-Rover, GMC and Toyota Land Cruiser light pickups fitted with heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles and anti-aircraft autocannons.
Structured along semi-conventional lines into mechanized infantry, ‘commando’, signals, medical and military police branches, the ZLA had its military HQ established at the small town of Ehden near Zgharta, where Zgharta residents spend the summer. While its membership and command structure was predominantly Maronite, they did included a few Greek-Catholics and Greek-Orthodox into their ranks. They initially allied themselves with the other Christian rightist parties in the Lebanese Front, operating mainly in the northern Lebanon but also fought in East Beirut. After Tony Frangieh was killed in the Ehden massacre perpetrated by the Lebanese Forces (LF) in June 1978, he was replaced in the militia's command by his younger brother Robert Frangieh, later succeeded by its nephew Suleiman Frangieh, Jr. in 1982.
The later years 1979-1990
Pushed to the sidelines for the rest of the war, the ZLA was able to remain active thanks to Syrian support and although its numbers dwindled to 1,600 fighters by the mid-1980s, the Al-Marada managed to hold on to the Frangieh clan fief in the Koura District, the so-called ‘Northern Canton’. It was also alleged that they received the tacit backing from a contingent of unspecified number from the 1,700 men-strong Lebanese Army’s Seventh Brigade stationed at Jbeil, being regarded as loyal to former president Suleiman Frangieh.
The Al-Marada even had a small ‘naval’ branch equipped with some ‘Zodiac’ rubber inflatable boats and converted fishing craft armed with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft autocannons, being used as a shock force for both military and barratry operations.
List of Marada military commanders
The ‘Northern Canton’, which comprised the northern Lebanon districts of Tripoli, Zgharta, Ehden, Bsharri, Batroun, and the illegal ports of Chekka – Lebanon’s industrial hub at the time – and Silatah, was run by the Marada’s own civil administration of 80 public servants. The later were also entrusted of running the militia's own television and radio service, "The Voice of the Marada" (Arabic: Iza’at Sawt al-Marada) or "La Voix des Maradah" in French.
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