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Syrian Occupation of Lebanon (1976-2005)

Saddam of Iraq vs Asad of Syria


Syria and Lebanon had normal and pleasant relations, once upon a time. The two nations shared many cultural and social aspects. But, after the Second World War, they stepped into two different directions.

While Lebanon moved toward democracy and free-market trade, adapting the West European model, Syria gradually allied itself with the Soviet Union and adapted its totalitarian political system and its communist economical system.

By the end of the sixties, the cliff between the two countries was growing wider; Lebanon made its way toward democracy and prosperity claming for itself titles such as ‘the only democracy among Arab countries’ and ‘ Switzerland of the Middle East’, while Syria was subject to consecutive coups with a torn-economy and week political system that hardly survived a short-lived union with the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Dictatorship in Syria

In November of 1970, Hafez Assad of Syria led a coup and proclaimed the Arabian Baath Party of Syria as the ruling party of the nation, banning all other parties.

Assad took advantage of the state of war between Israel and the Arab countries to achieve his dream of annexing the small, well prospered-and-advanced, country of Lebanon at the same time enforcing a socialist dictatorship in Syria based on persecuting his opponents and brutally massacring tens of thousands of Syrians to maintain his power.

The Syrian Military's Occupation of Lebanon

The Syrian Invasion Begins

The Syrian regime gained the opportunity of the disorder in Lebanon and started interfering by forming Saheka guerillas, a Syrian-Palestinian guerrilla that operates in Lebanon.

In 1970, Jordan expelled the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from its territories sending many civilian refugees and armed guerillas into Lebanon.

The dictator of Syria, Hafez Asad, clearly declared his intentions of annexing Lebanon on August 8, 1973 by announcing that ‘Lebanon and Syria are one country and one people but have two governments’.

While arms and funding were flowing to Lebanon and many political parties were turning into armed forces, the Syrian regimes worked on weakening the Lebanese government and hence the Lebanese army by supporting various militias to grow disorder and spark sectarian conflicts.

In 1973, Saheka, a Syria-Palestinian militia attacked the village of Der Ashash in North Lebanon, killing three priests and displacing its residents. Several similar attacks followed that incident creating a mounting temper in Lebanon.

On April 13, 1975, Palestinian gunmen killed four Christian Lebanese in front of a church east of Beirut, while Christian militiamen ambushed a busload of Palestinians later of the same day. A brutal fight broke up the war in Lebanon then.

November 2, 1975, an entire Battalion of Syrian Special Forces entered Lebanon through Bekaa Valley. In January of the following year, Syrian Vice President announced to Kuwaiti newspaper “Lebanon is a part of Syria, and Lebanon will be returned to Syria…this should be clear to everyone”.

One week later, a battalion from the Palestine Liberation army, under Syrian command, entered the Bekaa and started confrontations with the Lebanese army, while more Syrian and Palestinian forces entered Northern Lebanon attacking Lebanese police and security forces.

By end of January 1976, the Syrian-Palestinian forces had committed a great massacre in Damour village killing hundreds of its residents and displacing the rest and leaving nothing but rubble.

In May of 1976, the Syrian army invaded the Lebanese northern region of Akkar, and advanced into the Bekaa valley east of Lebanon. A month later, the Syrian dictator, Hafez Assad, delivered his infamous speech in the Syrian capital stating that he sent the Syrian army to Lebanon without permission from any authorities.

By the end of 1976, the Syrian troops in Lebanon were estimated to be around 25,000 thousand (ie: one soldier for every 100 Lebanese citizen).

The Syrian Regime Enforces its Positions in Lebanon

The League of Arab Countries sent peacekeeping troops to Lebanon. In the following year, the Syrian troops harassed the Arab forces forcing them to leave Lebanon in order for them to operate loose on the Lebanese territories.

By 1977, The Syrian forces in Lebanon exceeded 30,000 troops. Palestinian and other pro-Syrian militias were bringing to an end Syrian control by occupying their own positions in Lebanon. The Syrians forces turned over them and disintegrated them, then turned to the Christian and rightist forces and destroyed the areas they control while worked on paralyzing the Lebanese army.

The Syrian troops in Lebanon launched a war to silence the Lebanese voices that were criticizing its martial interference. Syrian forces attacked Lebanese magazines and newspapers, assassinated Lebanese national and religious figures such as the Druze leader Kamal Jumblat.

The Syrian forces kept occupying cities in northern Lebanon, central Lebanon and in Beirut with several attempts to occupy the Lebanese army headquarters.

The Palestinian militiamen continued launching attacks against Northern Israel from the areas they controlled in South Lebanon. The Israeli response was more severe and often impacted Lebanese civilians. The attacks developed into an Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon in March 1978. The United Nations Interim Forces were deployed in South Lebanon to reduce the tension, and the Israeli forces pulled back.

The Syrian army continued to gradually occupy more regions in Lebanon including parts of the capital Beirut. They continued their policy in disintegrating and swallowing Lebanon; Several Christian Priests and Muslim clerks were assassinated, not to mention journalists and western diplomats and ambassadors in the period between 1978 and 1982.

The Lebanese president Elias Sarkis submitted an official request to the Arab League summit of Fas, Morroco,1982 requesting the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Meanwhile, the Palestinians in South Lebanon were encouraged by the Syrians to create the disruption in Lebanon which was necessary for the Syrians to enact their plans.

(1982-1988) Syrian Forces Destroying Lebanon Capturing More of its Land

In June 1982, the Israeli forces invaded Lebanon reaching into Beirut. A multinational force made up of US and West European troops were deployed in Beirut after an international mediation took place.

The agreement called for PLO, Syrian and Israeli forces to pull of Beirut. Thousands of PLO militiamen were deported from Lebanon while the Syrian and Israeli army were withdrawing from Beirut.

In September 1982, the Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated which disrupted the agreement. In the following year, Syrian-sponsored groups launched suicide-bombing attacks against the peacekeeping US and French military barracks killing 300 of them.

The multinational troops were forced to leave Lebanon while the Syrian troops advanced in Beirut and launched several attempts to occupy the Lebanese Ministry of Defense and presidential palace. On September 9, 1983, the Lebanese government notified the UN and the European governments that the Syrian and the Palestinian forces are fighting to bring down the legal government of Lebanon, one week after the Lebanese president Amin Gemayel formerly asked Syria to pull out its troops from Lebanon.

In 1985 Israel withdrew most of its forces from Lebanon keeping a strip along its borders controlled by Israeli troops and proxy guerillas. On December 27, 1985, the Syrian regime tried to impose an agreement on the Lebanese parties to maintains its control over Lebanon. The plan was turned down in bloody fight.

Syria continued its policy of spreading its homogony on Lebanon using extreme violence against the Lebanese people. On the other hand, it used hostagetaking against American and West-European countries while sponsoring communist and radical groups.

(1988-1990) The final Confrontations

In 1998, Syrian troops and their allies worked on preventing the election of a new Lebanese president in order to completely paralyze the Lebanese authorities. The Lebanese president then, used his constitutional prerogative and appointed the Lebanese Army Commander Michel Aoun as a Prime Minister of interim government before ending his term.

The Syrians opposed the Lebanese Government and shelled the Lebanese civilian areas with heavy bombs and artillery. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Primer managed to gain popularity by enforcing the role of the Lebanese army over the militia, activating the governmental departments and working for political and economical reforms.

The Lebanese Government launched a war of liberation against the Syrian army demanding the scheduling of a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. The Syrian occupation troops pressured Lebanese politicians in the areas it occupied to oppose the Lebanese government; they had even assassinated the highest Sunni Muslim clerk, mufti of Lebanon because of his rejection of the Syrian fight against Lebanese.

Syrian Complete Occupation of Lebanon

In August of 1990 Iraq invaded its neighboring country of Kuwait, and attracted the international community’s attention to the occupation of the small oil-rich-country and the threats to the world-largest oil reserve of Saudi Arabia.

The Syrian regime gained the opportunity and promised not to side with Iraq in return of controlling Lebanon. On October 13, 1990, the Syrian troops launched aerial and ground attacks and occupied the Lebanese presidential palace and the ministry of defense defeating the reminder of the Lebanese army.

The Syrian regime appointed their own proxy government and president in occupied Lebanon and started a large-scale persecution operation against Lebanese people: arresting, abducting, torturing and killing whoever opposes its occupation.

The Syrian-appointed government in occupied Lebanon exiled the Lebanese Primer to France and 'legitimized' the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Syria took drastic measures to enforce its military and political presence in Lebanon. It occupied more than 90% of Lebanon, including the capital, the airport, the harbors and all major cities.

Syria disarmed most of Lebanese militia except for those affiliated with it such as Hizballah, Amal and radical Palestinian militias. The Lebanese army was restrained from performing any major activities and was directed to internal security functions.

The Syrian puppet regime of Lebanon amended the Lebanese constitution, and drew several agreements with the Syrian regime giving Syria advantages of using the Lebanese natural resources and abusing the free-market benefits in Lebanon.

The Lebanese community, especially universities, youth, engineers, physicians, lawyers and teachers started a peaceful revolution to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 520 that calls for Syria to completely withdrawal from Lebanon.

In the year 2000, Israel retreated from South Lebanon per the UN resolution 425, and in respect to the Lebanese international borders. Serving Syrian interests, Hizbollah guerillas refused to disarm and enroll in the civilian social and political life after the Israeli withdrawal, which deprived it from most of its Lebanese popularity (Details). It occupied the Southern territories that were evacuated by the Israelis, while the Syrian regime prevented the Lebanese army from deploying in these territories.

Post Israeli withdrawal, more national, regional and international voices pressured the Syrian regime to remove its troops from Lebanon. The Syrian Baath regime tried to bring a conflict with the United Nation and Israel over ‘Shebaa Farmland’ in order to keep tension between Lebanon and Israel and divert the calls for Syrian withdrawal (Details).

Syrian Military, Security and Intelligence Control of Lebanon

Syria stationed its commanding supervision at the Lebanese Ministry of Defense east of Beirut. Syrian Colonel Ghazi Kanaan, the Syrian Security and intelligence Chief in Lebanon, became the direct ruler of the occupied country.

The presence of Syrian soldiers and intelligence members (mukhabarat) in Beirut, at Syrian checkpoints and several official departments became daily occurrences for the Lebanese.

By the year 2004, approximately 25,000 Syrian troops and 25,000 intelligence members were deployed in Lebanon (that is one Syrian soldier for every 50 Lebanese).

The Lebanese military personnel were forced to attend Syrian academies for their officer training in lieu of the US and West-European academies pre-Syrian occupation.

The Syrian occupation forces depended on terrorizing the Lebanese people by searching out, arresting and abducting people for no particular reason; and subjecting them to torture and death.

Some lebanese were transferred, in contrast with all international laws, to Syrian prisons such as Mazze, Palmyra and Tadmor in addition to the Syrian detention facilities in occupied Lebanon; in Tripoli, Beirut, Shtura and Anjar. Neither were public charges made against the accused, nor were trials held against the detainees. Meanwhile, the Syrian mukhabarat continued monitoring telephone conversations of Lebanese citizens, and recording visits to religious figures such as the Maronite Christian Patriarch, Nasrallah Sfier.

Syrian Massacres Against Civilian Lebanese

Syria's brutal conquering of Lebanon and the continuous persecution of the people caused more than one hundred thousand casualties, led to the destruction of entire cities and imposed the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Some of the documented Syrian crimes against the Lebanese people are presented on the following page.

Click here to watch part of the cruelty of the Syrian Regime and terrorist atrocities
this regime is accountable for in Lebanon.
Please be advised, the presented images may be disturbing to sensitive individuals

Syrian Torture and Use of WMD Against Lebanese Detainees in Syrian Prisons

Syrian Political Dominance over the Lebanese Political Life

Syrian Organized Ethnic Cleansing Against Lebanese

Syrian Destruction for the Lebanese Economy

Syrian Control of the Lebanese Media

Syrian Destruction for the Lebanese Social and Cultural System


To conclude, the Lebanese do not hold the Syrian people, rather Syrian regime responsible and accountable for all the crimes that regime has been committing against the Lebanese community and the human race in general. The Syrian people, as well as every individual and institute in the free world, are responsible for refraining from acting to cease the crime against the Lebanese nation.

The Cedar Revolution - End of Syrian Occupation

Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003

The Lebanese lobbying groups in the United States managed to draft a bill with the American legislators supporting the freedom of Lebanon. The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act was passed by the United States Congress, and signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. The act called “to halt Syrian support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, stop its development of weapons of mass destruction, and cease its illegal importation of Iraqi oil and illegal shipments of weapons and other military items to Iraq”. It finally restored the importance of supporting Lebanon’s independence by stating that “the full restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity is in the national security interest of the United States.”

The French government and several other European states followed the United States’ steps calling for a full Syrian withdrawal of its army and security forces from Lebanon. However, the Syrian regime kept trying to release the pressure by announcing partial redeployments in Beirut suburbs.

UN Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004

The International community was growing convinced that the Syrian regime did not play any positive role in Lebanon, not to mention its negative role in supporting the ex-dictator regime of Saddam Hussein, and the insurgents in Iraq against the new Iraqi government. The Syrian control of Lebanon was very obvious when the Syrian government wanted to renew the expired term of the Syrian-appointed president in Lebanon Emile Lahoud.

The Syrian regime found in Lahoud an ally that no one could match, so they worked to amend the Lebanese constitution which prevents the re-election of presidents. The United States and France drafted a resolution that was adopted by the United Nations Security Council on September 2, 2004 as Resolution 1559. It supported a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon to be conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules, devised without foreign interference or influence, and called upon all forces to withdraw from Lebanon. The resolution called also for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias in the country. The Syrian regime ignored the resolution and forced the puppet parliament in Lebanon to amend the constitution of Lebanon and extend the Pro-Syrian’s president term for three more years despite the wide public opposition to Lahoud.

The Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council in the end of September 2004. His report stated that the Syrian regime refuses to pull its troops and security forces from Lebanon, and that neither the Syrian government nor its proxy government in Lebanon is working to disarm the militias in the country such as Hezbollah and the radical Palestinian militias.

Growing Opposition to Syrian Occupation

The United Nations Resolution showed a regional and international interest in the case of our small Lebanon. Arabic media sources from several Arabic countries broke the conventional taboo of criticizing other Arabic regimes. Terms such as “pro-Syrian government in Lebanon”, “Pro-Syrian president of Lebanon” and “Syrian-appointed president” were utilized in the Arabic media joining the international community in describing the Syrian homogony over Lebanon. Voices from Jordan and the Arabian Gulf countries called openly on Syria to implement Resolution 1559.

By the end of 2004, the public opposition to the Syrian occupation and its proxy regime in Lebanon grew substantially and attracted many political leaders including even some of those who were previously allied with the Syrian regime such as prominent Muslim-Sunni leader Rafik Hariri, and Druze leader Walid Juomblat. The Lebanese opposition built a wide Christian-Muslim opposition front and decided to participate in the general elections expected in May 2005 benefiting form the international attention to the Lebanese cause.

The conflict regarding resolution 1559 in Lebanon remained ongoing between those who are hoping to implement it, and those who are afraid of loosing their major power in the country – their martial force. As the resolution calls for full withdrawal of Syrian forces, and the disarming of Hezbollah and radical militias, the latter three parties are striving to prevent its implementation so they can maintain an exceptional power through the use of physical control.The Lebanese who oppose the Syrian occupation and support the UN resolution 1559, faced physical and mental persecution from the pro-Syrian regime in Lebanon, and had to face the armed forces who oppose the resolution.

The task was not easy with hundreds of Lebanese fearing the fate of those who were killed in Lebanon or those who have been in Syrian prisons for more than twenty years; imprisoned, tortured and killed.

Cedar Revolution of 2005

Syria kept persecuting the Lebanese leaders who resisted its occupation of Lebanon.Exiled Premier General Michel Aoun is threatened to be arrested if he tries to return to Lebanon, while the leader of the Lebanese Forces ex-militia Samir Gaegae is imprisoned in Lebanon since 1994.

Joumblat’s first aid Marwan Hamade escaped an assassination attempt by a car bomb in October 2004. Former premier Rafik Hariri was assassinated in Beirut on February 14, 2005 by a massive car bomb that killed sixteen other people.

The opposition met after Hariri's assassination later that night and publicly accused the pro-Syrian government and Damascus of being behind the assassination. They called for the Syrian troops to pullout of Lebanon, demanded an international protection for captured Lebanon, and called on the pro-Syrian illegal government to resign.

On February 18, 2005, the opposition launched the “Independence Peaceful Uprising” to liberate Lebanon, motivating the Lebanese mass to support its move. The Lebanese in occupied Lebanon and in Diaspora held mass rallies to support the freedom of their occupied motherland. The protests continued -- larger, louder and bolder -- until the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon resigned on February 28, 2005.

On March 5, 2005 the Syrian president bowed down to the national and international pressure, and announced that the Syrian army would pull out from Lebanon in two stages, without setting a timeline for the withdrawal, yet proclaiming the implementation of the UN resolution 1559. The Syrian troops started a partial withdrawal from Beirut and Northern Lebanon on March 8 th. The popular demonstrations continued and reached their peak on March 14, 2005 when the Lebanese people rallying against Syrian occupation held the largest demonstration in Lebanon ’s history with over a million demonstrators.

By the end of March 2005, the Syrian government pulled most of their troops and dismantled all of its intelligence stations in Beirut and north Lebanon . While the Lebanese were celebrating the withdrawal of the Syrian army in the areas they evacuated, pro-Syrian militants made several appearances as several bomb explosions took place around the country. The Lebanese opposition, the United Nations and the international community held the Syrian regime and its proxy government responsible for any security problems against the people of Lebanon.

On February 26, 2005 , a United Nations fact-finding mission held Syria and its proxy regime in Lebanon responsible for the political events that led to Hariri’s assassination. It also accused the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon of misleading the investigation and hiding evidence to cover up the crime. On April 7, 2005 , the United Nations Security Council ordered an international investigation into Hariri's assassination opposition through resolution 1595.

In response to the continuous United States-led pressure and in face of popular protests, the Syrian government pledged to pull out by April 30, 2005 .

The peaceful “Cedar Revolution” continued in Lebanon and around the world, seeking the independence of Lebanon, and calling for general elections free from Syrian interference. The Syrian army withdrew its troops from Lebanon end of April 2005 after 30 years of occupation.


AlAhram Newspaer, Egypt, Sep. 26, 1975.
Conflict and Violence in Lebanon: Confrontation in the Middle East, Walid Khalidi, 1984
From Israel to Damascus, Robert Hatem, 1999.
Lebanon Country Report on Human Rights for 1998, US Department of State, February 1999.
New York Times, May 9, 1997.
DOLID, Semaine D’Action Et De Soutien Des Libanais Detentus Dans Les Prisons Syriennes, Paris, January 26, 1998, February 1, 1998 and February 20 1998.
Syrian Intervention in Lebanon: The 1975-76 Civil War, Naomi J. Weinberger, NY, 1986
The Syrian Involvement in Lebanon Since 1975, Reuven Avi-Ran, 1991

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