Palestine: Part 19 – Syria in Lebanon
Palestine: Part 18 – Lebanese Civil War
The Syrian occupation of Lebanon began in 1976 as a result of the Lebanese Civil War and ended in 2005 in response to domestic and international pressure after the assassination of a former Lebanese Prime Minister. In January 1976, a Syrian proposal to restore the limits to the Palestinian guerrilla presence in Lebanon, which had been in place prior to the outbreak of the civil war, was welcomed by Maronites and conservative Muslims, but rejected by the Palestinian guerrillas and their Lebanese led and leftist allies.
In June 1976, to deal with the opposition posed by this latter group (which was normally allied with Syria), Syria dispatched Palestinian units under its control into Lebanon, and soon after sent in its own troops as well. Syria claims these interventions came in response to appeals from Christian villagers under attack by Leftists in Lebanon.
By October 1976, Syria had caused significant damage to the strength of the Leftists and their Palestinian allies, but at a meeting of the Arab League, it was forced to accept a ceasefire. The League ministers decided to expand an existing small Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but it grew to be a large Arab Deterrent Force (international peacekeeping force) consisting almost entirely of Syrian troops. The Syrian military intervention was thus legitimized and received subsidies from the Arab League for its activities.
Was the Syrian presence a military occupation (effective provisional control of a certain ruling power over a territory which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the volition of the actual sovereign) under international law? The mandate of the Force was renewed several times before it officially expired on July 27, 1982.
The Lebanese government refused to request that the mandate be renewed by the Arab League and instead, in September 1986, Lebanon actually requested an end to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Now, lacking legal authority from both Lebanon and the Arab League, Syria’s military forces probably had to be regarded from that point on as illegal occupants of Lebanon.
Beirut’s Own Civil War
At the final accords of the Lebanese Civil War, two rival administrations were formed in Lebanon. There was a military one in East Beirut and a civilian one in West Beirut. The latter gained the support of the Syrians.
The military opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon, citing the 1982 UN Security Council Resolution 520 (demand that Israel withdraw immediately from Lebanon, and that Lebanese sovereignty be respected in order to restore a stable government in Lebanon.) In the resulting “War of Liberation”, which erupted in March 1989, the military was defeated and their leader was exiled from Lebanon.
“Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination”
The hopefully named treaty, signed between Lebanon and Syria in 1991, legitimized the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. It stipulated that Lebanon would not be made a threat to Syria’s security and that Syria was responsible for protecting Lebanon from external threats. In September that same year a Defense and Security Pact was enacted between the two countries.
Following the assassination of the Lebanese ex-premier in 2005, and an alleged involvement of Syria in his death, the Cedar Revolution, a chain of demonstrations in Lebanon and especially Beirut triggered by the assassination, swept the country. With the consequent adoption of UN resolution 1559, Syria was forced to announce its full withdrawal from Lebanon on April 30, 2005.
Palestine: Part 20 – Jerusalem