The history of Lebanon is almost as old as the earliest evidence of humankind. Its geographic position as a crossroads linking the Mediterranean Basin with the great Asian hinterland has conferred on it a cosmopolitan character and a multicultural legacy.
At different periods of its history, Lebanon has come under the domination of foreign rulers, including Assyrians, Babylonians, Armenians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and French. Although often conquered, the Lebanese take pride in their rebellions against despotic and repressive rulers. Moreover, despite foreign domination, Lebanon's mountainous terrain has provided it with a certain protective isolation, enabling it to survive with an identity all its own.
Its proximity to the sea has ensured that throughout its history Lebanon has held an important position as a trading center. This tradition of commerce began with the Phoenicians and continued through many centuries, remaining almost unaffected by foreign rule and the worst periods of internal strife.
The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. It was known that the first time coloring was discovered accidentally when a seashell gave the famous dark red that was used for dyeing cloth for kings and rich people.
The coastal plain of Lebanon is the historic home of a string of coastal trading cities of Semitic culture, which the Greeks termed Phoenicia, whose maritime culture flourished there for more than 2,000 years 255 Ancient ruins in Byblos, Berytus (Beirut), Sidon, Sarepta (Sarafand), and Tyre show a civilized nation, with urban centres and sophisticated arts. Present-day Lebanon was a cosmopolitan centre for many nations and cultures. Its people roamed the Mediterranean seas, skilled in trade and in art, and founded trading colonies. They were also the creators of the oldest known 24-letter alphabet, a shortening of earlier 30-letter alphabets such as Proto-Sinaitic and Ugaritic.
Phoenicia maintained an uneasy tributary relationship with the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires; it was conquered outright by the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia, which organized it as a satrapy. It was added to the empire of Alexander the Great, who notably conquered Tyre (332 BC) by extending a still-extant causeway from the mainland in a seven-month effort. It fell to the Seleucid Empire after Alexander's death. The area was conquered by the Roman Empire in the first century and remained Roman until the advent of the Caliphate. Christianity was introduced to Phoenicia from neighboring Galilee soon after the time of Jesus of Nazareth; the Arab advances brought Islam soon after the death of Muhammad. Muslim influence increased greatly in the seventh century when the Umayyad capital was established at nearby
The mountainous territory of Mount Lebanon has long been a shelter for minority and persecuted groups, including its historic Maronite Christian majority along with Druze, and local Shi'a Muslims. It was an autonomous Maronite region of the Ottoman empire.
During the conflict between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the amirs of Lebanon linked their fate to that of Ghazali, governor (pasha) of Damascus. He won the confidence of the Ottomans by fighting on their side at Marj Dabaq and, apparently pleased with the behavior of the Lebanese amirs, introduced them to Salim I when he entered Damascus. Salim I, moved by the eloquence of the Lebanese ruler Amir Fakhr ad Din I (1516-44), decided to grant the Lebanese amirs a semiautonomous status. The Ottomans, through two great Druze feudal families, the Maans and the Shihabs, ruled Lebanon until the middle of the nineteenth century. It was during Ottoman rule that the term Greater Syria was coined to designate the approximate area included in present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.
The Maan family, under orders from the governor of Damascus, came to Lebanon in 1120 won against the invading Crusaders. They settled on the southwestern slopes of the Lebanon Mountains and soon adopted the Druze religion. Their authority began to rise with Fakhr ad-Din I, who was permitted by Ottoman authorities to organize his own army, and reached its peak with Fakhr ad-Din II (1570-1635).
Although Fakhr ad-Din II's aspirations toward complete independence for Lebanon ended tragically, he greatly enhanced Lebanon's military and economic development. Noted for religious tolerance , Fakhr ad-Din attempted to merge the country's different religious groups into one Lebanese community. In an effort to attain complete independence for Lebanon, he concluded a secret agreement with Ferdinand I, duke of Tuscany in Italy, the two parties pledging to support each other against the Ottomans. Informed of this agreement, the Ottoman ruler in Constantinople reacted violently and ordered Ahmad al Hafiz, governor of Damascus, to attack Fakhr ad Din. Realizing his inability to cope with the regular army of Al Hafiz, the Lebanese ruler went to Tuscany in exile in 1613. He returned to Lebanon in 1618, after his good friend Muhammad Pasha became governor of Damascus.
Following his return from Tuscany, Fakhr ad-Din II, realizing the need for a strong and disciplined armed force, channeled his financial resources into building a regular army. This army proved itself in 1623, when Mustafa Pasha, the new governor of Damascus, underestimating the capabilities of the Lebanese army, engaged it in battle and was decisively defeated at Anjar in the Biqa Valley. Impressed by the victory of the Lebanese ruler, the sultan of Constantinople gave him the title of Sultan al Barr (Sultan of Land).
In addition to building up the army, Fakhr ad-Din II, who became acquainted with Italian culture during his stay in Tuscany, initiated measures to modernize the country. After forming close ties with the dukes of Tuscany and Florence and establishing diplomatic relations with them, he brought in architects, irrigation engineers, and agricultural experts from Italy in an effort to promote prosperity in the country. He also strengthened Lebanon's strategic position by expanding its territory, building forts as far away as Palmyra in Syria, and gaining control of Palestine. Finally, the Ottoman sultan Murad IV of Constantinople, wanting to thwart Lebanon's progress toward complete independence, ordered Kutshuk, then governor of Damascus, to attack the Lebanese ruler. This time Fakhr ad Din was defeated, and he was executed in Constantinople in 1635. No significant Maan rulers succeeded Fakhr ad Din II.
The Shihabs succeeded the Maans in 1697. They originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon. The most prominent among them was Bashir Shihab II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad Din II. His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometers south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Al Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Shihab leader; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir's principal opponent in the area.
Bashir II was overthrown as wali when he backed Acre, and fled to Egypt, later to return and organize an army. Jumblatt gathered the Druze factions together, and the war became sectarian in character: the Maronites backing Bashir II, the Druze backing Bashir Jumblatt. Jumblatt declared a rebellion, and between 1821 and 1825 there were massacres and battles, with the Maronites attempting to gain control of the Mt. Lebanon district, and the Druze gaining control over the Biqa valley. In 1825 Bashir II defeated his rival and killed him after the battle of al Simqaniya. Bashir II was not a forgiving man and repressed the Druze, particularly in and around Beirut.
Bashir II, who had come to power through local politics and nearly fallen from power because of his increasing detachment from them, reached out for allies, allies who looked on the entire area as “the Orient” and who could provide trade, weapons and money, without requiring fealty and without, it seemed, being drawn into endless internal squabbles. He disarmed the Druze and allied with France, governing in the name of the Egyptian Pasha Muhammad Ali, who entered Lebanon and formally took overlordship in 1832. For the remaining 8 years, the sectarian and feudal rifts of the 1821–1825 conflict were heightened by the increasing economic isolation of the Druze, and the increasing wealth of the Maronites.
It is estimated that more than 4000 Christians were killed in the conflict, with another 4000 dying of destitution. Furthermore, more than 100 000 were made homeless (Salibi, K. 1965 The Modern History of Lebanon).
Another destabilizing factor was France's support for the Maronite Christians against the Druze which in turn led the British to back the Druze, exacerbating religious and economic tensions between the two communities. In 1859–60 violence erupted between the Maronites and the Druze. The Druze had grown increasingly resentful of the favoring of the Maronites by Bashir II, and were backed by the Ottoman Empire and the wali of Damascus in an attempt to gain greater control over Lebanon; the Maronites were backed by the French, out of both economic and political expediency. The Druze began a military campaign that included the burning of villages and massacres, while Maronite irregulars retaliated with attacks of their own. However, the Maronites were gradually pushed into a few strongholds and were on the verge of military defeat when the Congress of Europe intervened and established a commission to determine the outcome. The French forces deployed there were then used to enforce the final decision. The French accepted the Druze as having established control and the Maronites were reduced to a semi-autonomous region around Mt Lebanon, without even direct control over Beirut itself. The Province of Lebanon that would be controlled by the Maronites, but the entire area was placed under direct rule of the governor of Damascus, and carefully watched by the Ottoman Empire.
The remainder of the 19th century saw a relative period of stability, as Islamic, Druze and Maronite groups focused on economic and cultural development which saw the founding of the American University of Beirut and a flowering of literary and political activity associated with the attempts to liberalize the Ottoman Empire. Late in the century there was a short Druze uprising over the extremely harsh government and high taxation rates, but there was far less of the violence that had scalded the area earlier in the century.
In the approach to World War I, Beirut became a center of various reforming movements, and would send delegates to the Arab Syrian conference and Franco-Syrian conference held in Paris. There was a complex array of solutions, from pan-Arab nationalism, to separatism for Beirut, and several status quo movements that sought stability and reform within the context of Ottoman government. The Young Turk revolution brought these movements to the front, hoping that the reform of Ottoman Empire would lead to broader reforms. The outbreak of hostilities changed this, as Lebanon was to feel the weight of the conflict in the Middle East more heavily than most other areas.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the League of Nations mandated the five provinces that make up present-day Lebanon to the direct control of France. Initially the division of the Arab speaking areas of the Ottoman empire were to be divided by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, however, the final disposition was at the San Remo conference of 1920, whose determinations on the mandates, their boundaries, purposes and organization was ratified by the League in 1921 and put into effect in 1922.
According to the agreements reached at San Remo, France also had its control over what was termed Syria recognised, the French having taken Damascus in 1920. However Syria was scheduled to be an independent country, a so called Class A Mandate, and the rights granted to France were far less than over other mandate territories. A Class B mandate granted the right to administer the territories. The entire mandate area was termed "Syria" at the time, including the administrative districts along the Mediterranean coast. Wanting to maximize the area under its direct control, contain an Arab Syria centered on Damascus, and insure a defensible border, France established the Lebanon-Syrian border to the "Anti-Lebanon" mountains, on the far side of the Beqaa Valley, territory which had belonged to the province of Damascus for hundreds of years, and was far more attached to Damascus than Beirut by culture and influence. This doubled the territory under the control of Beirut, at the expense of what would become the state of Syria.
Consequently, the demographics of Lebanon were profoundly altered, as the territory added contained people who were predominantly Muslim or Druze: Lebanese Christians, of which the Maronites were the largest subgrouping, now constituted barely more than 50% of the population, while Sunni Muslims in Lebanon saw their numbers increase eightfold, Shi'ite Muslims fourfold. Modern Lebanon's constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of power between the various religious groups, but France designed it to guarantee the political dominance of its Christian allies. The president was required to be a Christian (in practice, a Maronite), the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. On the basis of the 1932 census, parliament seats were divided according to a 6 to 5 Christian/Muslim ratio. The constitution gave the president veto power over any legislation approved by parliament, virtually ensuring that the 6:5 ratio would not be revised in the event that the population distribution changed. By 1960, Muslims were thought to constitute a majority of the population, which contributed to Muslim unrest regarding the political system.
After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon. The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War Two. The last French troops withdrew in 1946.
Lebanon's history from independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a freely trading regional center for finance and trade. Lebanon was also a major center for the production of opium in the Mideast. Beirut became a mecca for institutions of international commerce and finance, as well as wealthy tourists, and enjoyed a reputation as the "Paris of the Middle East" until the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War.
In 1958, during the last months of President Camille Chamoun's term, an insurrection broke out, and 5,000 United States Marines were briefly dispatched to the capital Beirut on July 15 in response to an appeal by the government. After the crisis, a new government was formed, led by the popular former general Fuad Chehab.
During the 1960s, Lebanon enjoyed a period of relative calm, with Beirut-focused tourism and banking sector-driven prosperity. Lebanon reached the peak of its economic success in the mid-1960’s – the country was seen as a bastion of economic strength by the oil-rich Gulf Arab states, whose funds made Lebanon one of the world’s fastest growing economies and fashionable Beirut seen as the “Paris of the East”. This period of economic stability and prosperity was brought to an abrupt halt with the collapse of Yousef Beidas' Intra Bank, the country's largest bank and financial backbone, in 1966.
Additional Palestinian refugees arrived after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Following their defeat in the Jordanian civil war, thousands of Palestinian militiamen regrouped in Lebanon, led by Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, with the intention of replicating the modus operandi of attacking Israel from a politically and militarily weak neighbour. Starting in 1968, Palestinian militants of various affiliations began to use southern Lebanon as a launching pad for attacks on Israel. Two of these attacks led to a watershed event in Lebanon's inchoate civil war. In July 1968, a faction of George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked an Israeli El Al civilian plane en route to Algiers; in December, Habash himself oversaw an attack on an El Al plane in Athens, resulting in two deaths.
Later that month, Israeli agents flew into Beirut's international airport and destroyed 13 civilian airliners belonging to various Arab carriers. Israel defended its actions by informing the Lebanese government that it was responsible for encouraging the PFLP. The retaliation, which was intended to encourage a Lebanese government crackdown on Palestinian militants, instead polarized Lebanese society on the Palestinian question, deepening the divide between pro- and anti-Palestinian factions, with the Muslims leading the former grouping and Maronites primarily constituting the latter. This dispute reflected increasing tensions between Christian and Muslim communities over the distribution of political power, and would ultimately foment the outbreak of civil war in 1975.
In the interim, while armed Lebanese forces under the Maronite-controlled government sparred with Palestinian fighters, Egyptian leader Gamal Abd al-Nasser helped to negotiate the 1969 "Cairo Agreement" between Arafat and the Lebanese government, which granted the PLO autonomy over Palestinian refugee camps and access routes to northern Israel in return for PLO recognition of Lebanese sovereignty. The agreement incited Maronite frustration over what were perceived as excessive concessions to the Palestinians, and pro-Maronite paramilitary groups were subsequently formed to fill the vacuum left by government forces, which were now required to leave the Palestinians alone. Notably, the Phalange, a Maronite militia, rose to prominence around this time, led by members of the Gemayel family. (Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict, pp. 310, 353.)
For its part, the PLO used its new privileges to establish an effective "mini-state" in southern Lebanon, and to ramp up its attacks on settlements in northern Israel. Compounding matters, Lebanon received an influx of armed Palestinian militants, including Arafat and his Fatah movement, fleeing the 1970 Jordanian crackdown. The PLO's "vicious terrorist attacks in Israel" (Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, p. 184) dating from this period were countered by Israeli bombing raids in southern Lebanon, where "150 or more towns and villages...have been repeatedly savaged by the Israeli armed forces since 1968," of which the village of Khiyam is probably the best-known example (Ibid., p. 191, quoting Guardian correspondent Irene Beeson). Palestinian terror claimed 106 lives in northern Israel from 1967, according to official IDF statistics, while the Lebanese army had recorded "1.4 Israeli violations of Lebanese territory per day from 1968–74" (Ibid., p. 74, citing Ha'aretz, June 22, 1982, and p. 191, citing The New York Times, October 2, 1977.) Where Lebanon had no conflict with Israel during the period 1949–1968, after 1968 Lebanon's southern border began to experience an escalating cycle of attack and retaliation, leading to the chaos of the civil war, foreign invasions and international intervention. The consequences of the PLO's arrival in Lebanon continue to this day.
Events and political movements that contributed to Lebanon's violent implosion include, among others, the departure of European colonial powers, the emergence of Arab Nationalism, Arab Socialism in the context of the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ba'athism, the Iranian Revolution, Palestinian militants, Black September in Jordan, Islamic fundamentalism, and the Iran–Iraq War.
In all, it is estimated that more than 100,000 were killed, and another 100,000 handicapped by injuries, during Lebanon's 16-year war. Up to one-fifth of the pre-war resident population, or about 900,000 people, were displaced from their homes, of whom perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently. Thousands of people lost limbs during many stages of planting of land-mines.
The War can be divided broadly into several periods: The initial outbreak in the mid-1970s, the Syrian and then Israeli intervention of the late 1970s, escalation of the PLO-Israeli conflict in the early 1980s, the 1982 Israeli invasion, a brief period of multinational involvement, and finally resolution which took the form of Syrian occupation.
The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with maintaining peace. Israeli forces withdrew later in 1978, leaving an SLA-controlled border strip as a protective buffer against PLO cross-border attacks.
Concurrently, tension between Syria and Phalange increased Israeli support for the Maronite group and led to direct Israeli-Syrian exchanges in April 1981, leading to American diplomatic intervention. Philip Habib was dispatched to the region to head off further escalation, which he successfully did via an agreement concluded in May.
Intra-Palestinian fighting and PLO-Israeli conflict continued, and July 24, 1981, Habib brokered a cease-fire agreement with the PLO and Israel: the two sides agreed to cease hostilities in Lebanon proper and along the Israeli border with Lebanon.
After continued PLO-Israeli exchanges, Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6 in Operation Peace for Galilee. By June 15, Israeli units were entrenched outside Beirut and Yassir Arafat attempted through negotiations to evacuate the PLO. It is commonly estimated that during the entire campaign, approximately 20,000 were killed on all sides, including many civilians. A multinational force composed of U.S. Marines, French, Italian units arrived to ensure the departure of the PLO and protect defenseless civilians. Nearly 15,000 Palestinian militants were evacuated by September 1.
President Bashir Gemayel agreed to send troops from his Phalange militia into camps to clear out 2,000 PLO fighters. On September 14, Gemayel was assassinated. Phalangists entered the camps on September 16 at 6:00 PM and remained until the morning of September 19, massacring 700–800 Palestinians, according to official Israeli statistics, "none apparently members of any PLO unit" (Smith, op. cit., 380-1). These are known as the Sabra and Shatila massacres.
Amine Gemayel succeeded his brother and focused on securing the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. A May 17, 1983, agreement among Lebanon, Israel, and the United States arranged an Israeli withdrawal conditional on the departure of Syrian troops. Syria opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress.
In 1983 the IDF withdrew southward, and would remain only in the "security zone" until the year 2000.
Intense attacks against U.S. and Western interests, including two truck bombings of the US Embassy in 1983 and 1984 and the landmark attacks on the U.S. Marine and French parachute regiment barracks on October 23, 1983, led to an American withdrawal, while the virtual collapse of the Lebanese Army in February 1984 was a major blow to the government. On March 5 the Lebanese Government canceled the May 17 agreement and the Marines departed a few weeks later.
Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982. Although Gemayel did not cooperate with the Israelis publicly, his long history of tactical collaboration with Israel counted against him in the eyes of many Lebanese, especially Muslims. Although the only announced candidate for the presidency of the republic, the National Assembly elected him by the second narrowest margin in Lebanese history (57 votes out of 92) on August 23, 1982; most Muslim members of the Assembly boycotted the vote. Nine days before he was due to take office, Gemayel was assassinated along with twenty-five others in an explosion at the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafieh on September 14, 1982. Bachir Gemayel was succeeded as president by his older brother Amine Gemayel, who served from 1982 to 1988. Rather different in temperament, Amine Gemayel was widely regarded as lacking the charisma and decisiveness of his brother, and many of the latter's followers were dissatisfied.
Habib Tanious Shartouni, a member of the pro-Damascus Syrian Social Nationalist Party, confessed to the crime, was apprehended and handed to Amine Gemayel. He escaped but was captured again a few hours later and handed over to Lebanon's justice system. He was imprisoned in the Roumieh prison. He was released from Roumieh in October 1990 in the post-war amnesty.
Combat returned to Beirut in 1987, with Palestinians, leftists, and Druze fighters allied against Amal, eventually drawing further Syrian intervention. Violent confrontation flared up again in Beirut in 1988 between Amal and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, on the political front, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on June 1, 1987. President Gemayel's term of office expired in September 1988. Before stepping down, he appointed another Maronite Christian, Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, as was his right under the Lebanese constitution of 1943. This action was highly controversial.
Muslim groups rejected the move and pledged support to Selim al-Hoss, a Sunni who had succeeded Karami. Lebanon was thus divided between a Christian government in East Beirut and a Muslim government in West Beirut, with no President.
In February 1989, General Aoun launched the "Harb El Tahrir", a war against the Syrian Armed Forces in Lebanon. He did not receive aid or support from any other Lebanese group or militia, except the Lebanese Forces (who were to later side with the Syrian regime against Aoun). In October 1990, the Syrian air force, backed by the US and pro-Syrian Lebanese groups (including Hariri, Joumblatt, Berri, Geagea and Lahoud) attacked the Presidential Palace at B'abda and forced Aoun to take refuge in the French embassy in Beirut and later go into exile in Paris. October 13, 1990 is regarded as the date the civil war ended, and Syria is widely recognized as playing a critical role in its end.
In August 1990, the parliament and the new president agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Taif. The National Assembly expanded to 128 seats and was divided equally between Christians and Muslims. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned most political crimes prior to its enactment, excepting crimes perpetrated against foreign diplomats or certain crimes referred by the cabinet to the Higher Judicial Council.
In May 1991, the militias (with the important exception of Hizballah) were dissolved, and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild themselves as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution.
Some violence still occurred. In late December 1991 a car bomb (estimated to carry 100 kg (220 pounds) of TNT) exploded in the Muslim neighborhood of Basta. At least thirty people were killed, and 120 wounded, including former Prime Minister Shafik Wazzan, who was riding in a bulletproof car. It was the deadliest car bombing in Lebanon since June 18, 1985, when an explosion in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli killed sixty people and wounded 110.
The last of the Westerners kidnapped by Hezbollah during the mid-1980s were released in May 1992.
Postwar social and political instability, fueled by economic uncertainty and the collapse of the Lebanese currency, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami, also in May 1992, after less than 2 years in office. He was replaced by former Prime Minister Rashid al Sulh, who was widely viewed as a caretaker to oversee Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in 20 years.
By early November 1992, a new parliament had been elected, and Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had formed a cabinet, retaining for himself the finance portfolio. The formation of a government headed by a successful billionaire businessman was widely seen as a sign that Lebanon would make a priority of rebuilding the country and reviving the economy. Solidere, a private real estate company set up to rebuild downtown Beirut, was a symbol of Hariri's strategy to link economic recovery to private sector investment. After the election of then-commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Émile Lahoud as President in 1998 following Hrawi's extended term as President, Salim al-Hoss again served as Prime Minister. Hariri returned to office as Prime Minister in November 2000. Although problems with basic infrastructure and government services persist, and Lebanon is now highly indebted, much of the civil war damage has been repaired throughout the country, and many foreign investors and tourists have returned.
If Lebanon has in part recovered over the past decade from the catastrophic damage to infrastructure of its long civil war, the social and political divisions that gave rise to and sustained that conflict remain largely unresolved. Parliamentary and more recently municipal elections have been held with fewer irregularities and more popular participation than in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, and Lebanese civil society generally enjoys significantly more freedoms than elsewhere in the Arab world. However, there are continuing sectarian tensions and unease about Syrian and other external influences.
In the late 1990s, the government took action against Sunni Muslim extremists in the north who had attacked its soldiers, and it continues to move against groups such as Asbat al-Ansar, which has been accused of being partnered with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. On January 24, 2002, Elie Hobeika, another former Lebanese Forces figure associated with the Sabra and Shatilla massacres who later served in three cabinets and the parliament, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut.
Up to 2005, 14-15,000 Syrian troops (down from 35,000) remained in position in many areas of Lebanon, although the Taif called for an agreement between the Syrian and Lebanese Governments by September 1992 on their redeployment to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Syria's refusal to exit Lebanon following Israel's 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon first raised criticism among the Lebanese Maronite Christians and Druze, who were later joined by many of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims. ) Lebanon's Shiites, on the other hand, have long supported the Syrian presence, as has the Hezbollah militia group and political party. The U.S. began applying pressure on Syria to end its occupation and cease interfering with internal Lebanese matters In 2004, many believe Syria pressured Lebanese MPs to back a constitutional amendment to revise term limitations and allow Lebanon's two term pro-Syrian president Émile Lahoud to run for a third time. France, Germany and the United Kingdom, along with many Lebanese politicians joined the U.S. in denouncing alleged Syria's interference On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, authored by France and the U.S. in an uncommon show of cooperation. The resolution called "upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias".
On May 25, 2000, Israel completed its withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 A 50 square kilometer piece of Lebanese mountain terrain, commonly referred to as the Shebaa Farms, remains under the control of Israel. The UN has certified Israel's pullout , and regards the Shebaa Farms as occupied Syrian territory, while Lebanon and Syria have stated they regard the area as Lebanese territory. The January 20, 2005, UN Secretary-General's report on Lebanon stated: "The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab'a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel's withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council's repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety."
In Resolution 425, the UN had set a goal of assisting the Lebanese government in a "return of its effective authority in the area", which would require an official Lebanese army presence there. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 requires the dismantling of the Hezbollah militia. Yet, Hezbollah remains deployed along the Blue Line Both Hezbollah and Israel have violated the Blue Line more than once, according to the UN The most common pattern of violence have been border incursions by the Hezbollah into the Shebaa Farms area, and then Israeli air strikes into southern Lebanon. The UN Secretary-General has urged "all governments that have influence on Hezbollah to deter it from any further actions which could increase the tension in the area" Staffan de Misura, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon stated that he was "deeply concerned that air violations by Israel across the Blue Line during altercations with Hezbollah are continuing to take place" , calling "upon the Israeli authorities to cease such violations and to fully respect the Blue Line" In 2001 de Misura similarly expressed his concern to Lebanon's prime minister for allowing Hezbollah to violate the Blue Line, saying it was a "clear infringement" of UN Resolution 425, under which the UN certified Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon as complete On January 28, 2005, UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it. On January 23, 2006 The UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with those efforts. In a statement read out by its January President, Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon
To the surprise of many, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who had vehemently opposed this amendment, appeared to have finally accepted it, and so did most of his party. However, he ended up resigning in protest against the amendment. He was assassinated soon afterwards (see below), triggering the Cedar Revolution. This amendment comes in discordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for a new presidential election in Lebanon.
On October 1 2004, one of the main dissenting voices to Émile Lahoud's term extension, the newly resigned Druze ex-minister Marwan Hamadeh was the target of a car bomb attack as his vehicle slowed to enter his Beirut home. Mr. Hamadeh and his bodyguard were wounded and his driver killed in the attack. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appealed for calm, but said the car bomb was a clear message for the opposition. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his serious concern over the attack
On October 7 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that Syria had failed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. Mr. Annan concluded his report saying that "It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history."
On October 19 2004, following the UN Secretary General's report, the UN Security Council voted unanimously (meaning that it received the backing of Algeria, the only Arab member of the Security Council) to put out a statement calling on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon, in accordance with Resolution 1559
On October 20 2004, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri resigned; the next day former Prime Minister and loyal supporter of Syria Omar Karami was appointed Prime Minister On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated in a car-bomb attack which killed 16 and wounded 100. This was a second car-bomb assassination of a Lebanese Parliament member that opposed Syria in a four month period. On February 21 2005, tens of thousand Lebanese protestors held a rally at the site of the assassination calling for the withdrawal of Syria's peacekeeping forces and blaming Syria and the pro-Syrian president Lahoud for the murder
Hariri's murder triggered increased international pressure on Syria. In a joint statement U.S. President Bush and French president Chirac condemned the killing and called for full implementation of UNSCR 1559. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he was sending a team led by Ireland's deputy police commissioner, Peter Fitzgerald, to investigate the assassination And while Arab League head Amr Moussa declared that Syrian president Assad promised him a phased withdrawal over a two year period, the Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said Mr Moussa had misunderstood the Syrian leader. Mr Dakhlallah said that Syria will merely move its troops to eastern Lebanon.
Local Lebanese pressure mounted as well. As daily protests against the Syrian occupation grew to 25,000, a series of dramatic events occurred. Massive protests such as these have been quite uncommon in the Arab world, and while in the 90s most anti-Syrian demonstrators were predominantly Christian, the new demonstrations were Christian and Sunni On February 28 the government of pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned, calling for a new election to take place. Mr Karami said in his announcement: "I am keen the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country." The tens of thousands gathered at Beirut's Martyrs' Square cheered the announcement, then chanted "Karami has fallen, your turn will come, Lahoud, and yours, Bashar" Opposition MPs were also not satisfied with Karami's resignation, and kept pressing for full Syrian withdrawal. Former minister and MP Marwan Hamadeh, who survived a similar car bomb attack on October 1, 2004, said "I accuse this government of incitement, negligence and shortcomings at the least, and of covering up its planning at the most... if not executing". Two days later Syrian leader Bashar Assad announced that his troops will leave Lebanon completely "in the next few months". Responding to the announcement, opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said that he wanted to hear more specifics from Damascus about any withdrawal: "It's a nice gesture but 'next few months' is quite vague – we need a clear-cut timetable"
On March 3 Russia, Syria's Cold War ally, and Germany had joined those calling for Syria to comply with UNSCR 1559. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said: "Lebanon should be given an opportunity for sovereignty and development and this can only be achieved by complying with Security Council resolutions that stipulate immediate Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon." The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that "Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, but we all have to make sure that this withdrawal does not violate the very fragile balance which we still have in Lebanon, which is a very difficult country ethnically"
Arab states have also joined in with the withdrawal demands. As Al-Assad arrived in Saudi Arabia for emergency consultation with Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz, Assad was told in no uncertain terms that Syria must comply with UN Security Council demands immediately. It was reported that Assad offered to remove most of the 15,000 troops Syria has stationed in Lebanon during the talks, but insisted on leaving a force of 3,000 in the country The Saudis also rejected a Syrian plea that an Arab summit, due to take place on March 23 in Algeria, should officially ask Syria to withdraw, giving the pullback an Arab endorsement as envisaged in the 1989 Taif Agreement, rather than making it conditional on UNSCR 1559. Algerian Foreign Minister Abdel-Aziz Belkhadem discussed the consensus ahead of the summit, stating that "we all agreed to demand the implementation of the Taif Accord with respect to international legitimacy."
On March 5 Syrian leader Assad declared in a televised speech that Syria would withdraw its forces to the Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon, and then to the border between Syria and Lebanon. Assad did not provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon – 14,000 soldiers and intelligence agents Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for a "massive popular gathering" on Tuesday against UN Resolution 1559 saying "The resistance will not give up its arms ... because Lebanon needs the resistance to defend it", and added "all the articles of UN resolution give free services to the Israeli enemy who should have been made accountable for his crimes and now finds that he is being rewarded for his crimes and achieves all its demands" In opposition to Nasrallah's call, Monday, March 7 saw at least 70,000 people – with some estimates putting the number at twice as high – gathered at central Martyrs' Square to demand that Syria leave completely
The following day a pro-Syrian demonstration set a new record when Hezbollah amassed 400–500 thousand protestors at Riad Solh square in Beirut, most of them bussed in from the heavily Shi'ite south Lebanon and eastern Beka'a valley. The show of power demonstrated Hezbollah's influence, wealth and organization as the sole Lebanese party allowed to hold a militia by Syria. In his speech Nasrallah blasted UN Security-Council Resolution 1559, which calls for Hezbollah's militia to be disbanded, as foreign intervention. Nasrallah also reiterated his earlier calls for the destruction of Israel saying "To this enemy we say again: There is no place for you here and there is no life for you among us. Death to Israel!". Though Hezbollah organized a very successful rally, opposition leaders were quick to point out that Hezbollah had active support from Lebanon's government and Syria. While the pro-democracy rallies had to deal with road blocks forcing protestors to either turn back or march long distances to Martyr's Square, Hezbollah was able to bus people directly to Riad Solh square. Dory Chamoun, an opposition leader, pointed out that "the difference is that in our demonstrations, people arrive voluntarily and on foot, not in buses". Another opposition member said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out and some reports said Syria had bused in people from across the border. But on a mountain road leading to Beirut, only one bus with a Syrian license plate was spotted in a convoy of pro-Syrian supporters heading to the capital and Hezbollah officials denied the charges Opposition MP Akram Chehayeb said "That is where the difference between us and them lies: They asked these people to come and they brought them here, whereas the opposition's supporters come here on their own. Our protests are spontaneous. We have a cause. What is theirs?"
After weeks of international and local pressure it appeared that a UN showdown was on its way. A meeting between UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen and Syrian leader Assad was scheduled for March 12. Roed-Larsen preceded the meeting by consulting with Egypt, Jordan, Arab League chief Amr Mousa, and Lebanon. Roed-Larsen was expected to deliver an ultimatum to Assad over compliance with UNSCR 1559. This included compliance with honoring Lebanon's sovereignty; not undermining its upcoming legislative elections; providing a complete timeline for a full pullout of troops. A phased withdrawal, or "sequencing" would be accepted, but must be expeditious; providing a timeline for the withdrawal of some 5,000 Syrian intelligence agents in Lebanon; Finally, disarming and dismantling foreign and domestic Syrian-supported militias in Lebanon Supporting Roed-Larsen's mission, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after talks with Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt, said Russia was keeping a close eye on Syrian troop movements and that Syria's intelligence services should also pull out
One month after Hariri's murder, an enormous anti-Syrian rally gathered at Martyr's Square in Beirut. Multiple news agencies estimated the crowd at between 800,000 and 1 million – a show of force for the Sunni, Christian and Druze communities. The rally was double the size of the mostly Shi'ite pro-Syrian one organized by Hezbollah the previous week When Hariri's sister took a pro-Syrian line saying that Lebanon should "stand by Syria until its land is liberated and it regains its sovereignty on the [Israeli-] occupied Golan Heights" the crowd jeered her This sentiment was prevalent among the rally participants who opposed Hezbollah's refusal to disarm based on the claim that Lebanese and Syrian interests are linked
Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, a Syrian ally in the Lebanese security forces, resigned on Monday, April 25, just a day before the final Syrian troops pulled out of Lebanon.
On April 26, 2005, the last 250 Syrian troops left Lebanon. During the departure ceremonies, Gen. Ali Habib, Syria's chief of staff, said that Syria's president had decided to recall his troops after the Lebanese army had been "rebuilt on sound national foundations and became capable of protecting the state."
UN forces led by Senegalese Brig. Gen. Mouhamadou Kandji were sent to Lebanon to verify the military withdrawal which was mandated by Security Council resolution 1559.
Following the Syrian withdrawal a series of assassinations of Lebanese politicians and journalists with the anti-Syrian camp had begun. Over nine bombings have occurred to date and have triggered condemnations from the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General
On December 28, 2005 Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar said it had received a statement signed by "The Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom in al-Sham," the group that claimed responsibility for the death of its former editor Gibran Tueni with a car bomb on December 12. The statement said outgoing UNIIIC chairman Mehlis was lucky to escape death and threatened any new chairman with assassination if he too implicated Syria
On December 30, 2005 Syria's former Vice-President, Abdul Halim Khaddam, said that "Hariri received many threats" from Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad Prior to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon Mr Khaddam was in charge of Syria's Lebanon policy and mainly responsible for Syria's abuse of Lebanon's resources. Many believe that Khaddam seized the opportunity to clear his history of corruption and blackmail.
In May 2007, militants in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp outside of Tripoli, allied with Al Qaeda began a struggle against government forces located outside of the camp. The violence shook the country and a wave of car bombings, including one in Verdun in Beirut, followed. The violence ended early in September 2007, with the fall of the camp to the Army. There had been no ripple effect across the country, but despite this containment the violence had been the worst to shake Lebanon since the Lebanese Civil War.