Souk El Gharb
|Souk El Gharb
|Governorate||Mount Lebanon Governorate|
|Highest elevation||750 m (2,460 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||674 m (2,211 ft)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
Before the Lebanese Civil War, it was a prosperous mountain resort, nestled in the Aley District Mountains of Mount Lebanon in a pine forest and overlooking Saint George Bay and Beirut. Being only a few kilometers from the mountain city of Aley, it is considered today one of Aley's suburbs. The villages that lie between Aley and Souk El Gharb are Bmakine and the two Ains (the modern spelling in Lebanese is 3ayn): Ain el-Sayydé (our Lady's spring), and Ain el-Rimmané (the spring of the pomegranate). South of Souk El Gharb lies the village of Kaifun.
- The Saint George Greek Catholic Abbey of Bmakine.
- The Saint George Greek Orthodox Abbey, which was started in 1570 and serves as the Summer seat of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut.
Schools and universities
Souk El Gharb was famous for several schools: The Souk El Gharb Presbyterian School (alumni include Abraham Rihbany), The Souk El Gharb College of Lebanon, The Souk El Gharb Technical Institute and College, The Souk el Gharb School for English Instruction, and The Souk El Gharb Boarding School for Boys. There's also the Balamand university in Souk El Gharb.
There are identifiable Roman ruins in the town. There are buildings dating back at least to the 16th Century.
The town was the scene of many notable battles during the Civil War, its notability arising from being actually held long-term by the Lebanese Army rather than a militia. This was sometimes against great odds and against the backing of the Syrian forces. General Michel Aoun's Eighth Brigade squared off against the Progressive Socialist Party's "PSP" militia and their allies for many years. Unfortunately for the civilian population, it led to the destruction of the town.
In June, 2005 parliamentary elections were held in the village for the first time since the withdrawal of Syrian forces. One resident put it this way: "For me, ballot box battles are for sure much better than gunbattles..."
Battle of Souk El Gharb of September 1983
Souk-El-Gharb figured prominently in the Civil War but during this particular timeframe the town attracted worldwide attention due to the involvement of American Naval Forces. The backdrop for the battle was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In August 1983, Israel withdrew from the Chouf District (southeast of Beirut), thus removing the buffer between the Druze and the Christian militias and triggering another round of brutal fighting. By September, the Druze had gained control over most of the Chouf. However, it was the nominally Lebanese Army (LAF) that acted as a blocking force in Suk El Gharb during September, 1983 thwarting militia passage to the presidential palace in Baabda.
Baabda lay downhill on the Beirut-Aley-Damascus highway. The militias coming up from the south had to traverse Suk El Gharb to get to the Beirut-Aley road. Moreover, Suk El Gharb controlled a ridge that overlooked Baabda, Yarze which was the location of the Ministry of Defence, and East Beirut. From that ridge, the Militia gunners could shoot directly downhill at those locations with artillery.
The Lebanese Army chief tried to get the Americans involved, reasoning with them that they should since the Syrians were backing Militias. At first, the Americans refused but eventually agreed when told Suk El Gharb was in danger of getting overrun. The USS Virginia (CGN-38), USS John Rodgers (DD-983), USS Bowen, and USS Arthur W. Radford fired 338 rounds from their five inch (127 mm) guns in support of Lebanese Army forces defending Suk El Gharb. The LAF were able to hold the town. It's an open question whether they would have held it without the naval support. Unfortunately, much of the town was destroyed during these hostilities. The PSP had took control three times over Souk El Gharb but failed each time to keep it: the first time because of the American intervention; the second, and after the US troops left Lebanon, because of national pressure on the PSP to quit Souk El Gharb. The third time after the PSP took control of the area, an inside battle between the troops of the PSP let the army retake control of the town. The PSP took full control of the town in 1990.
Some authors, including Thomas Friedman point to the use of this naval gunfire as the beginning point of the U.S. forces being seen as participants in the civil war rather than peace keepers and opening them up to retaliation.
- Quartos Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Beirut web site
- Anti-Syrian candidates concede in Lebanon USA Today Posted 6/12/2005 5:38 PM accessed Oct. 13, 2007
- From Beirut to Jerusalem Amazon.com ISBN ISBN 0-385-41372-6 Thomas Friedman Book Accessed Oct. 13, 2007
- IN THE DRUSE HILLS, A BURST OF ANGER IS DIRECTED AT U.S NYT By E. J. DIONNE JR., SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (NYT); Foreign Desk September 21, 1983, Wednesday Late City Final Edition, Section A, Page 1, Column 5 Accessed Oct. 13, 2007
- U.S. WARSHIPS FIRE IN DIRECT SUPPORT OF LEBANESE ARMY By BERNARD GWERTZMAN, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (NYT); Foreign Desk September 20, 1983, Tuesday Late City Final Edition, Section A, Page 1, Column 5, Accessed Oct. 13, 2007
-  Thomas Friedman Book
- Tactical Lessons For Peacekeeping U.S. Multinational Force in Beirut 1982-1984 Small Wars Journal Major Ronald F. Baczkowski, USMC, Accessed Oct 13, 2007
- Landmine and Unexploded Ordnance Problem in Lebanon Demining Research at the University of Western Australia, Landmine and Unexploded Ordnance Problem in Lebanon, Report by A/Prof. James Trevelyan, University of Western Australia
[Souq Elgharb] http://www.souqelgharb.com