It was on June 6, 1982 that Israeli forces swept into Southern Lebanon occupying the area and starting a ten-week siege of Palestinian strongholds in Beirut.
NORTHERN ISRAEL, JUNE 1982
GVs & SVs Firemen attempting to put out blaze. SVs Damaged building. Man carried on stretcher into waiting ambulance. (4 SHOTS)
Background: It was on June 6, 1982 that Israeli forces swept into Southern Lebanon occupying the area and starting a ten-week siege of Palestinian strongholds in Beirut. Now, a year later Israel and Lebanon have signed an agreement which should lead to the withdrawal of Israeli troops. But far from alleviating the tension in the area, the agreement has, if anything heightened it. Syria with Soviet backing has refused to recognise the agreement and observers fear that the Soviet Union and the US could get further involved in the turbulent politics of the Lebanon with possibly disastrous consequences.
SYNOPSIS: Few could have guessed that Israeli forces would continue to Beirut when they initially invaded southern Lebanon ostensibly to destroy the positions of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) guerrillas. The Israeli invasion was swift an incisive and by July armoured divisions were in Beirut. One side of the invasion which drew mounting criticism was the high number of civilians who were killed or injured in the advance.
In August, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat left Beirut after using the city for 12 years as his headquarters. Since that day he has been back to the Lebanon visiting PLO guerrilla units in the Bekaa Valley. A month later the delicate politics of the region were upset by the assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel. Thousands of supporters from the Christian Falange movement which Gemayel led gathered outside the Christian Maronite Church in Bikfaya the home-town of the 34-year-old militia leader. The funeral took place as Israel jets roared overhead in a gesture which was seen as a warning to the Syrians whose front-line was only two kilometres from the town. A few days later, Israeli armoured divisions moved into the heart of West Beirut - allegedly in peace-keeping role.
But it was these scenes which shocked the world and drew the harshest criticism of the Israeli invasion. Hundreds of Palestinians died in the massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila -- executed by Lebanese rightist militiamen - while reportedly Israeli troops stood by on the road outside. In response to the international outcry a multinational force was stationed in Beirut and Israeli troops began withdrawing from the city.
A few days later the brother of Bashir Gemayel, 39-year-old Falangist Amin was sworn in for a six-year term as President. The ceremony was attended by US Special Envoy Philip Habib who had negotiated the Palestinian evacuation from the city. The new President swore to maintain his country's independence and territorial integrity.
US-sponsored talks to discuss the withdrawal of all foreign forces continued for months. Meanwhile, Beirut began to return to some semblance of normality. From the beginning of June until the end of August the city had been under almost continuous siege. President Amin Gemayel pressed ahead with a 12 billion dollar reconstruction plan over five years. The opening of the airport at the end of September marked the end of the long blockade. Cheap Israeli exports flooded into Beirut as these well-stocked fruit stalls show. And in Hamra -- Beirut's principal shopping street -- the signs of economic revival were most obvious with people crowding the cinemas and the bustling restaurants.
But tension was never far from the surface. On April 18 at least 30 people were killed and 95 wounded when a car bomb devastated the US Embassy. A fanatical Moslem sect claimed responsibility. The aim of the attack was to undermine the US directed peace initiative.
However, on May 17, the agreement was signed after almost five months of negotiations. Syria denounced the agreement almost immediately and PLO leader Yasser Arafat said the only way to alter the balance of power in the area was through war. Syria has had increased military backing from the Soviet Union and PLO commandos have reportedly slippedback into Northern Lebanon swelling their ranks from 8,000 to 10,000. Observers say both Syria and Israel have an interest in involving their super-power allies deeper in the Lebanon. Israel itself is probably keen to leave the area after a year but the invasion has probably changed the map of Lebanese politics permanently and withdrawal may not be easy to achieve.