Last updated on: 2/24/2012 10:18:48 AM PST

What Was the 1982 Lebanon War?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con) map, created using information from the Federal Research Division

The 1988 Country Studies/Area Handbook on Israel, published by the United States Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, contained the following:

"When, in early June 1982, terrorists of the Abu Nidal organization, a PLO splinter group, badly wounded the Israeli ambassador in London during an assassination attempt, Israel seized the pretext for launching a long-planned offensive against the PLO in Lebanon. The Israeli cabinet's authorization for the invasion, named Operation Peace for Galilee, set strict limits on the incursion. The IDF was to advance no farther than forty kilometers, the operation was to last only twenty-four hours, there would be no attack on Syrian forces and no approach to Beirut...

When IDF ground forces crossed into Lebanon on June 6, five divisions and two reinforced brigade-size units conducted the three-pronged attack... The PLO was the only group to resist the IDF advance. Although many PLO officers fled, abandoning their men, the Palestinian resistance proved tenacious. In house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat in the sprawling refugee camps near Tyre and Sidon, the Palestinians inflicted high casualties on the IDF... [T]he IDF was on the verge of a breakthrough when, on June 11, Israel bowed to political pressure and agreed to a truce under United States auspices.

The cease-fire signaled the start of a new stage in the war, as Israel focused on PLO forces trapped in Beirut... Israel maintained the siege of Beirut for seventy days, unleashing a relentless barrage of air, naval, and artillery bombardment... Arafat had threatened to turn Beirut into a 'second Stalingrad,' to fight the IDF to the last man. His negotiating stance grew tenuous, however, after Lebanese leaders, who had previously expressed solidarity with the PLO, petitioned him to abandon Beirut to spare the civilian population further suffering...

Arafat's condition for withdrawal was that a multinational peacekeeping force be deployed to protect the Palestinian families left behind. Syria and Tunisia agreed to host departing PLO fighters. An advance unit of the Multinational Force, 350 French troops, arrived in Beirut on August 11, followed within one week by a contingent of 800 United States marines. By September 1, approximately 8,000 Palestinian guerrillas, 2,600 PLA regulars, and 3,600 Syrian troops had evacuated West Beirut.

Taking stock of the war's toll, Israel announced the death of 344 of its soldiers and the wounding of more than 2,000. Israel calculated that hundreds of Syrian soldiers had been killed and more than 1,000 wounded, and that 1,000 Palestinian guerrillas had been killed and 7,000 captured. By Lebanese estimates, 17,825 Lebanese had died and more than 30,000 had been wounded."

1988 - Country Studies / Area Handbooks Program 

Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, wrote in its Nov. 30, 2008 unauthored article "The Lebanon War (1982)" on

"In July 1981 the US negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and the PLO. The ceasefire was violated one year later, on June 3, 1982, when a gunman affiliated with the Ahmed Jibril movement tried to assassinate Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to London. Argov suffered a serious head injury. Then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin called a special cabinet meeting following the attempt on Argov's life. The meeting ended with the cabinet voting in favor of striking targets in Beirut and southern Lebanon. The PLO responded with massive shelling on Israel’s northern communities...

IDF forces marched into Lebanon on June 6, 1982 as the government announced that Israel’s objective was to push the armed groups northward, thus ensuring the northern Israeli communities were safely out of fire range. The operation was meant to be no more than 48 hours long, reaching 25 miles into Lebanon. IDF forces, however, ended up reaching the outskirts of Beirut. As Israeli forces pressed northward, Syrian forces launched an offensive in eastern Lebanon. A clash proved unavoidable as Damascus sent reinforcements to the Bekaa Valley and launched an attack against IDF troops; but the Israel Air Force destroyed most of Syria’s missiles batteries in Lebanon, shooting down 27 Syrian fighter jets in the process. Syria ended up losing about 100 jets in the fighting.

By June 14, IDF forces were surrounding Beirut. Joined by Christian Phalanges in the eastern sector of the city, the plan was to impose a "new order” in Lebanon: Israel was to help Lebanon become free of Syrian and Palestinian influences, thus securing peace for both sides. Seizing Beirut was meant to force the Syrian and PLO forces out of the city. The blockade lasted from July through mid-August, when PLO forces, and Yasser Arafat among them, began leaving the city under the protection of a multinational force on August 25 and was completed five days later...

Following a massacre of Palestinian civilians by Christian Phalanges forces at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in September 1982, the IDF left western Beirut and a multinational force took its place. The US special envoy to the region, Philip Habib, brokered the withdrawal of all foreign armies from Lebanon – Israel, Syria and the PLO, as well as ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon; but the Lebanese recanted the deal due to Syrian pressure. IDF forces began a graduate withdrawal to the south, suffering mass casualties in the process.

On November 4, 1983 the IDF headquarters in Sidon was attacked and 36 soldiers were killed. The multinational force was targeted numerous times as well: On October of 1983 the US and French forces lost 241 and 58 soldiers respectively, and as a result the multinational force essentially ceased to exist. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government inability to enforce its authority resulted in dozens of armed militias roaming free in southern Lebanon; and in continued clashes between the militias and IDF forces.

The mass casualties suffered by the IDF led to the Israeli public being heavily divided about the necessity of the war in Lebanon, which was perceived by many as 'elective fighting.' The escapade, which was dubbed 'the Lebanese mess,' eventually led to Begin's decision to resign as PM in August of 1983.

January of 1985 saw the Israeli government decide to gradually withdraw from Lebanon, and by springtime most of the IDF's troops – with the exception of those stationed in the south Lebanese buffer zone – were out of Lebanon. According to the Defense Ministry, Israel suffered 1217 fatalities in the war itself, which lasted between 1982 and 1985."

Nov. 30, 2008 - Yedioth Ahronoth 

Howard M. Sachar, PhD, Professor of History at George Washington University, wrote in his 1987 book A History of Israel: Volume II:

"The catalyst for invasion was provided in an unexpected site. On June 3, 1982, the De La Rue Group, a British printing and publishing conglomerate, held a banquet at London's Dorchester Hotel. The 400 guests included industrialists and several ambassadors. One of the latter was Shlomo Argov of Israel. When the banquet ended, Argov left the hotel shortly before 11:00 p.m. A young Palestinian, Hassan Said, carrying a shoulder bag, had been loitering on the street outside for nearly an hour. As the [Israeli] ambassador entered his limousine, Said removed a submachine gun from the bag and fired one shot from a distance of 15 feet. Argov was struck in the head and collapsed...

The following day, the Israeli air force began a massive bombardment of PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] targets in Lebanon, battering arms depots and military camps beyond the Red Line [Awali River below which Syrian troops were not to go] the entire distance up to Beirut...In the absence of Arafat, who had departed for Baghdad several days earlier to offer his mediation services in the Iraq-Iran War, the reaction of individual PLO factions was to launch a sporadic shelling of Israeli settlements in the Galilee. There were several casualties and heavy property damage...

At an emergency [Israeli] cabinet meeting of June 5 [1982], he [Arial Sharon, Israeli Defense Minister] and [Israeli Prime Minister] Begin insisted that the army would have to strike immediately to activate a long-prepared strategy of clearing a 25-mile strip along the Lebanese border. If this were accomplished, the PLO's artillery would be pushed decisively beyond range of Israel's northern settlements...The cabinet then gave its approval.

At the outset, on June 6, 1982, three Israeli divisions closed in on the Palestinians [in Lebanon] from all sides: by direct advance along the coastal road; by amphibious forces landed between Sidon and Damour; then by a division sent into the central sector, through the Shouf mountains. The unfolding offensive was envisaged as a classic pincer movement that would encircle south Lebanon, and strike across to the coast...

After a week of war, Israel's army was in effective occupation of southern Lebanon. Its tanks and self-propelled guns surrounded Beirut, trapping some 15,000 Palestinian guerrillas intermingled in the western part of the city among a half-million local Moslems...

During the ensuing two months [June & July], some 400 Israeli tanks and 1,000 guns poured salvo after salvo into West Beirut... As [Israeli Defense Minister] Sharon had hoped, the pulverizing seige rapidly became unendurable for the Palestinian guerrillas. In late June, through [U.S. Ambassador] Philip Habib and other intermediaries, Arafat let it be known that he was prepared to withdraw his men from the city."

1987 - Howard M. Sachar, PhD