Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon

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South Lebanon security belt
South Lebanon security zone
1985[1]–2000
Capital Marjayoun
Languages Arabic · French
Religion Islam · Christianity · Druze faith
Government Provisional administration
President
 •  1985–2000 Antoine Lahad
Historical era Lebanese Civil War and South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000)
 •  declaration 1985[1]
 •  Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon May 2000
Population
 •  est. 150,000 
Currency Lebanese Pound, Old Israeli Shekel
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Free Lebanon State
Lebanon
Today part of  Lebanon

The Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon took place after Israel invaded Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War and subsequently retained its forces to support the Christian South Lebanon Army in Southern Lebanon. In 1982, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and allied Free Lebanon Army Christian militias seized large sections of Lebanon, including the capital of Beirut, amid the hostilities of the wider Lebanese Civil War. Later, Israel withdrew from parts of the occupied area between 1983 and 1985, but remained in partial control of the border region known as the South Lebanon Security Belt, initially in coordination with the self-proclaimed Free Lebanon State, which executed a limited authority over portions of southern Lebanon until 1984, and later with the South Lebanon Army (transformed from Free Lebanon Army), until the year 2000. Israel's stated purpose for the Security Belt was to create a space separating its northern border towns from terrorists residing in Lebanon.[citation needed]

During the stay in the security belt, the IDF held many positions and supported the SLA. The SLA took over daily life in the security zone, initially as the official force of the Free Lebanon State and later as an allied militia. Notably, the South Lebanon Army controlled the prison in Khiam. In addition, United Nations (UN) forces and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were deployed to the security belt (from the end of Operation Litani in 1978).

The strip was a few miles wide, and consisted of about 10% of the total territory of Lebanon, which housed about 150,000 people who lived in 67 villages and towns made up of Shiites, Maronites and Druze (most of whom lived in the town of Hasbaya). In the central zone of the Strip was the Maronite town Marjayoun, which was the capital of the security belt. Residents remaining in the security zone had many contacts with Israel, many of whom have worked there and received various services from Israel.

Background

Map of southern Lebanon, featuring the Blue Line, UNIFIL zone, and Litani River (2006)

Although the strip was officially formed in 1985, following degradation of the Free Lebanon State and the IDF withdrawal from most of South Lebanon, it has its roots in the early Lebanese civil war. From 1968, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) controlled southern Lebanon. In 1975, the PLO's control became a severe nuisance to Christians and local residents. The Christians asked Israel for its assistance. From mid-1976, Israel began to assist the Christian residents across the border by opening the border, or Good Fence, in Metola, and through military cooperation with the Christian militia, the Free Lebanon Army and later Free Lebanon State, which was established under the Christian officer Major Saad Haddad.

History

1985-2000

During the evacuation in the first Lebanon war, the command of the SLA was delivered into the hands of Antoine Lahad, who demanded and received Israeli permission to hold the Jezzine zone north of the strip. In the first years after the IDF withdrawal from the north part of Lebanon, the strip was relatively quiet. Over the years, the Lebanese militant groups, led by Sh'ite Hezbollah, increased on the Israeli side in the security belt. Driving on the roads became dangerous, and IDF forces stayed more in the military camps than on the roads. Hezbollah made many efforts to attack the IDF's military camps. On 16 February 1992, the then-leader of Hezbollah, Abbas Musawi, was assassinated by IDF's helicopter missiles. The IDF assumed that the Hezbollah leadership would curb their activities for fear of their lives and the lives of their families. Hezbollah was headed by Sheikh Nasrallah.

Israeli soldiers serving in Southern Lebanon received no ribbon for wartime military service, because Israel considered the maintaining of the security belt as a low-intensity conflict rather than a war.[2] In early 2000, Chief-of-Staff Shaul Mofaz said that 1999 was "the IDF's most successful year in Lebanon" with 11 soldiers killed by hostiles in Southern Lebanon, the lowest casualty rate during the entire conflict.[3] A total number of 256 Israeli soldiers died in combat in South Lebanon from 1985 to 2000.[4]

Withdrawal from the security belt (1999-2000)

Before the Israeli election in May 1999 the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, promised that within a year all Israeli forces would withdraw from Southern Lebanon, effectively dropping the support for the South Lebanon Army. When negotiation efforts between Israel and Syria, the goal of which was to bring a peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon as well, failed due to Syrian control of Lebanon (until 2005), Barak led to the decision of withdrawal of the IDF to the Israeli border. With the amounting pressure on South Lebanon Army and the South Lebanon security belt administration, the system began to fall apart, with many members of the army and administration requesting political asylum in Israel and other countries. With mounting attacks of Hezbollah, the ranks of the South Lebanese Army deteriorated, with reduced conscription and high rates of desertion at lower ranks. In April 2000, when it was clear the Israeli withdrawal was about to happen within weeks or months, some SLA officials began moving their families to northern Israel.

The Israeli complete withdrawal took place on 24 May 2000. No Israeli soldiers were killed or wounded during the redeployment to the internationally recognized border.[citation needed] The South Lebanon Army however shortly collapsed, with most officers and administration officials fleeing to Israel with their families, as Hezbollah amounted pressure on the remaining units. When Israel allowed the pouring refugees in, some 7,000 refugees, including South Lebanon Army soldiers, Security Zone officials and their families arrived in Galilee.

Provisional Administration

The South Lebanon security belt administration was a local provisional governance body in South Lebanon, in the South Lebanon security belt areas. It replaced the Free Lebanon State institutions and operated from 1985 until 2000 with full Israeli logistic and military support. It controlled 328 square miles of territory in southern Lebanon.[5] During its functioning years, the administration was headed by Antoine Lahad, a Maronite Christian claiming the rank of general.[5]

Military forces

The South Lebanon Army or South Lebanese Army (SLA) was a Lebanese Christian militia during the Lebanese Civil War and its aftermath, until disbanded in the year 2000. It was originally named the Free Lebanon Army, which split from the Army of Free Lebanon. After 1979, the militia operated in southern Lebanon under the authority of Saad Haddad's Government of Free Lebanon. It was supported by Israel, and became its primary ally in Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000) to fight against Hezbollah.

Demographics

The strip was a few miles wide, and consisted of about 10% of the total territory of Lebanon, which housed about 150,000 people who lived in 67 villages and towns made up of Shiites, Maronites and Druze (most of whom lived in the town of Hasbaya). In the central zone of the Strip was the Maronite town Marjayoun, which was the capital of the security belt. Residents remaining in the security zone had many contacts with Israel, many of whom have worked there and received various services from Israel.

Economy

The beginning of the Good Fence coincides with the beginning of the civil war in Lebanon in 1976 and Israelן support of the predominantly-Maronite militias in southern Lebanon in their battle with the PLO. From 1977, Israel allowed the Maronites and their allies to find employment in Israel and provided assistance in exporting goods through the Israeli port city of Haifa. The main border crossing through which goods and workers crossed was the Fatima Gate crossing near Metula. This provided essential economic stability to the administration of Free Lebanon State and the South Lebanon security belt administration.

Israel states that, before 2000, approximately one-third of the patients in the ophthalmology department of the Western Galilee Hospital were Lebanese citizens who crossed the border through the Good Fence and received treatment free of charge.[6] The Good Fence ceased to exist with Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 and disintegration of the South Lebanon security belt administration.

See also

References