1982 Lebanon War
|1982 Lebanon War|
|Part of |
Top: Lebanese troops in Beirut, 1982
Bottom: Map of the military situation in Lebanon in 1983
|Commanders and leaders|
(Minister of Defense)
300 artillery pieces
100 anti-aircraft guns
125 SAM batteries
350+ artillery pieces
250+ anti-aircraft guns
|Casualties and losses|
30 tanks lost
100 tanks damaged
175 APCs destroyed or damaged
1 aircraft lost
2 helicopters lost
Syria: 1,200 killed
300–350 tanks lost
~100 artillery pieces lost
82–86 aircraft lost
12 helicopters lost
|Civilians: See Casualties below.|
The 1982 Lebanon War, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee (
After attacking the PLO – as well as Syrian, leftist, and Muslim Lebanese forces – the Israeli military, in cooperation with their
Following the assassination of Gemayel in September 1982, Israel's position in Beirut became untenable and the signing of a peace treaty became increasingly unlikely. Outrage following Israel's role in the Phalangist-perpetrated
The violence between Israel and the PLO peaked during
As early as 1976, Israel had been assisting Lebanese Christian militias in their sporadic battles against the PLO. During
During the period June to December 1980 the
In his report for the period of 12 December 1980 to 12 June 1981 on UNIFIL activities, the Security Council Secretary General noted that infiltrations into the border zone by Palestinian armed forces had decreased relative to the previous six months. In contrast the IDF had launched various attacks on Lebanese territory often in support of the Lebanese Christian militia. In doing so Israel had violated UN Security Council resolution 425 on hundreds of occasions [paragraph 58]. Where the initiator(s) of attacks could be identified in the report, in 15 cases Palestinian militants were to blame while on 23 occasions the Militia and/or the IDF were the instigators, the latter also being responsible for the most violent confrontation of the period on 27 April [paragraph 52].
In the subsequent period 16 June to 10 December 1981, a relative quiet was reported continuing from 29 May 1981 until 10 July. This was broken when "Israeli aircraft resumed strikes against targets in southern Lebanon north of the UNIFIL area. (The Israeli strikes) led to exchanges of heavy firing between armed elements (Palestinians), on the one hand, and IDF and the de facto forces (Christian Militia) on the other. On 13 and 14 July, widespread Israeli air-strikes continued. Armed elements (Palestinians) fired into the enclave and northern Israel." Israeli-initiated attacks had led to rocket and artillery fire on northern Israel. This pattern continued in the coming days.
Israel renewed its air strikes in an attempt to trigger a war that would allow it to drive out the PLO and restore peace to the region. On 17 July, the Israel Air Force launched a massive attack on PLO buildings in downtown Beirut. "Perhaps as many as three hundred died, and eight hundred were wounded, the great majority of them civilians." The Israeli army also heavily targeted PLO positions in south Lebanon without success in suppressing Palestinian rocket launchers and guns. As a result, thousands of Israeli citizens who resided near the Lebanese border headed south. There patterns of Israeli-initiated airstrikes and Palestinian retaliations with attacks on northern Israel are in contrast with the official Israeli version "A ceasefire declared in July 1981 was broken: the terrorists continued to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in Israel and abroad, and the threat to the northern settlements became unbearable."
On 24 July 1981, United States Undersecretary of State Philip Habib brokered a ceasefire badly needed by both parties, the best achievable result from negotiations via intermediaries, aimed at complying with the decisions of UN Security Council resolution 490. The process was complicated, requiring
shuttle diplomacy between Damascus, Jerusalem, and Beirut, United States. Philip Habib concluded a ceasefire across the Lebanon border between Israel and the PLO. Habib could not talk to the PLO directly because of Kissinger's directive, so he used a Saudi member of the royal family as mediator. The agreement was oral – nothing could be written down since Israel and the PLO did not recognize each other and refused to negotiate with each other – but they came up with a truce. ... Thus the border between Lebanon and Israel suddenly stabilized after over a decade of routine bombing.
Between July 1981 and June 1982, as a result of the Habib ceasefire, the Lebanese-Israeli border "enjoyed a state of calm unprecedented since 1968." But the 'calm' was tense. US Secretary of State,
The 'calm' lasted nine months. Then, on 21 April 1982, after a landmine killed an Israeli officer while he was visiting a South Lebanese Army gun emplacement in
On 9 May 1982, Israeli aircraft again attacked targets in Lebanon. Later that same day, UNIFIL observed the firing of rockets from Palestinian positions in the
Prior to establishing ceasefire in July 1981, U.N. Secretary-General
From the ceasefire, established in July 1981, until the start of the war, the Israeli government reported 270 terrorist attacks by the PLO in Israel, the occupied territories, and the Jordanian and Lebanese border (in addition to 20 attacks on Israeli interests abroad).
In Ariel Sharon's biography by his son, Gilad Sharon, the author referring to the Habib ceasefire, comments: "However, the agreement was explicit only regarding preventing terror from Lebanon, which is why my father encouraged the cabinet not to accept the offer as presented by the Americans."
The cease-fire, as both the PLO and the Americans saw it, did not include terror attacks stemming from Lebanon and carried out against Jews in Europe and other locales. In a meeting my father had with Alexander Haig and Philip Habib on May 25, 1982, Habib repeated what he had already said many times before: "Terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews in Europe are not included in the cease-fire agreement.
Arafat pressured the radical factions to maintain the ceasefire because he did not wish to provoke the Israelis into an all-out attack. The PLO acceptance of the ceasefire had led to dissension even within Fatah itself. A faction sympathetic to Abu Nidal forced a military confrontation, with accompanying arrests and executions — an event unprecedented in PLO internal disputes'. Arafat even attempted to distance himself from Palestinian unrest on the West Bank to prevent an Israeli attack. In contrast, Begin, Sharon and Eitan were searching for any excuse to neutralize their military opponents through a breach of the ceasefire. They believed that Arafat was buying time to build up his conventional forces. The Israeli interpretation of the conditions for the ceasefire placed responsibility for any act of Palestinian violence on Arafat's shoulders. It presumed that Arafat had complete control, not only over all factions within the PLO such as the rejectionist Popular Front of George Habash, but also over those outside such as Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council and Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front — General Command. Moreover, in Begin's eyes, the ceasefire was not geographically limited to the Lebanese border. He argued that if Palestinian terrorism struck internationally, then this too would be regarded as a breach of the ceasefire. Begin thus took a stand-off in a local battle as applying to the entire war anywhere in the Middle East or any incident internationally. Eitan commented that there was no difference if a terrorist threw a grenade in Gaza or fired a shell at a Northern settlement — all such acts broke the ceasefire. Sharon similarly did not wish to draw distinctions between different Palestinian factions, since all blame had to be attached to the PLO. He dismissed attempts at more rational evaluation as masking the real issue. In a speech to a Young Herut conference in April 1982, he accused those who tried to take a more objective standpoint of erecting 'a protective wall around the PLO inside and outside Israel'.
Further support comes from
Haig thus comes off very badly: not a team player, not able to keep the rest of the administration informed of what was going on beforehand, not willing to tell anyone in the White House why Sharon was so confident during the invasion, hoping that Reagan's special envoy would fail in his mission, and having little sense of what the national security of the United States required—which was not a confrontation between Israeli and Soviet tanks on the road from Beirut to Damascus.
The American reaction was that they would not apply any undue pressure on Israel to quit Lebanon as the Israeli presence in Lebanon may prove to be a catalyst for the disparate groups of Lebanon to make common cause against both Syrian and Israeli forces. Haig's analysis, which
The military plan with the code name "Big Pines", prepared by IDF, envisaged invasion to Lebanon up to the highway Damascus-Beirut and linking with Maronite forces. It was first presented to Israeli cabinet on 20 December 1981 by Begin, but rejected by the majority of ministers. According to Avi Shlaim, Sharon and chief of staff
On 3 June 1982 Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom,
At the Israeli Cabinet meeting the following day, both Begin and Eitan belittled intelligence reports that the likely culprit was the Abu Nidal group. Begin cut short his own advisor on terrorism, arguing that all Palestinian terrorists were members of the PLO, while Eitan ridiculed the intelligence staff for splitting hairs and demanded to strike at the PLO. Yet Abu Nidal had broken with Arafat and PLO in 1974 over a fundamental principle: namely, that the Palestinian national movement would adopt a phased piecemeal approach to secure a Palestinian state and embark on a political path. The lack of understanding of the difference between Palestinian groups and the total ignorance of Palestinian politics on the part an overwhelming majority of Israelis and Jews played into the hands of those who did not wish to distinguish between the PLO and the Abu Nidal group. Thus, instead of an initiative to locate the Abu Nidal group in Damascus or Baghdad, the plan to invade Lebanon was activated.:119–120
The PLO denied complicity in the attack, but Israel retaliated with punishing air and artillery strikes against Palestinian targets in Lebanon, including the PLO camps.
According to Shlaim, Yasser Arafat, at that time being in Saudi Arabia, told the Americans through the Saudis that he was willing to suspend cross-border shelling. But that message was disregarded by the Israeli government. President Reagan also sent a message to Begin urging him not to widen the attack.