Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

Lebanese Civil War - Formation of militias, The PLO and regional conflict

combatants government beirut sectarian

(1975–1990) A war sparked by the killing of 27 Palestinians in a bus passing through a Christian neighbourhood in April 1975. Its roots lay in a distribution of government office by sectarian community which many believed gave Christians a disproportionate share of political power. In its first phase alone (1975–6) 30 000 died before an Arab peace-keeping force separated the combatants. The war passed through a number of phases, drawing in most of Lebanon's diverse sectarian communities and its neighbours, notably Syria and Israel. It was marked by the fragmentation of the country and the division of the capital city Beirut into a Christian E and a Muslim W half, over which the central government had no control (particularly after the collapse of the Lebanese army). Notable events of the war include the Israeli invasion and siege of Beirut (1982), the massacre of defenceless Palestinian non-combatants at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps (1982), the suicide bombings which claimed 241 US and 58 French marines (1983), the hijacking of a TWA airliner (1985), and the taking of Western hostages. A framework for reconciliation was agreed in 1989 by Lebanese parliamentarians meeting in the Saudi Arabian city of Taif, which was haltingly put into practice.

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