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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 1 - Lebanon: A Century of Unrest and Wars

A Country Scared by Wars Inscribed in Regional Geopolitics

Éric Verdeil

Texte intégral

1Violent episodes and wars rooted in regional geopolitics have marked Lebanon’s recent history and have had lasting effects on its population and territory. The successive and concomitant interventions of several foreign countries had a major impact on the Civil War, the various conflicts and alliances involving Lebanese groups. More recently, and on a different time and spatial scale, the war with Israel in 2006 had dramatic consequences.

The Civil War: internal tensions and foreign interventions

2The objective here is not to present in detail the various phases of the conflict but to mention some of its main spatial aspects. The first one is the gradual political fragmentation of the territory. A central area, dominated by Christian militias, especially the Lebanese Forces, covered the northern and eastern suburbs of Beirut, Jounieh, Jbeil and their hinterlands. The rest of the country was divided and under the shifting control of various militias. Originally dominated by progressive pro-Palestinian militias, West Beirut imploded and was broken down into micro-territories after the Israeli invasion in 1982 and because of the conflicts opposing the Amal movement and its Shiite rival, Hezbollah, the Progressive Socialist Party of the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and other organizations. In the South, the end of the Palestinian control after 1982 also gave way to a fragmented landscape where Amal and Hezbollah took the lead in the fight against Israel and the Christian militia working for it, the South Lebanon Army. After its 1976 intervention, Syria’s presence in the country was formalized by the Cairo Agreement and reinforced, except in the South and the central areas controlled by Christian militias. Between the end of the 1970s and the end of the 1990s, both Syria and Israel frequently intervened on Lebanese soil. Iran, Iraq and several western powers, including the United States and France were also involved in the war, either with troops on the ground or through support given to multiple Lebanese groups, in relation to existing and shifting alliances.

3The war, which caused more than 150,000 deaths, was mostly urban. Fights were often concentrated along the different demarcation lines. The weaponry used became increasingly heavy and sophisticated: the fights taking place between 1989 and 1990 were in comparison more destructive than the earlier ones. Despite the lack of reliable statistical sources about the damages, surveys of damaged buildings showed that nearly 10% of the buildings in the region of Beirut were destroyed, more than 25% in some areas. Outside the metropolitan area, the most affected zones were located along strategic axes and marked by religious diversity. The war also resulted in massive population movements, outlined in the second chapter.

Figure I-9: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut

Figure I-9: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut

Figure I-10: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut

Figure I-10: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut

The 2006 war

Figure I-11: Damages caused to housing units in South Lebanon in 2006

Figure I-11: Damages caused to housing units in South Lebanon in 2006

4The end of the Civil War did not mark the end of the conflicts involving Lebanese and foreign actors in Lebanon. During the summer 2006, in retaliation for the kidnapping of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah, Israel launched a massive military operation in Lebanon. The fate of Lebanese prisoners in Israel and the issue of the Chebaa farms acted as the immediate justifications for this new confrontation. However, it resonated with the context of growing regional tensions. The occupation of the Palestinian territories had long fueled a feeling of revolt in Lebanon, which was constantly summoned by Hezbollah.

5The United States, an ally of Israel, justified its operation in the name of the global fight against terrorism. The anti-Zionist declarations of the Iranian authorities, who politically and financially supported Hezbollah, were an additional source of worry for Israel and its allies. Showcased as a victory by Hezbollah, who led the fight against Israel, the war lasted long enough to cause about 1,100 deaths and provoked the displacement of more than one million individuals. It also resulted in heavy material damages, mainly concentrated in the South and the southern suburb of Beirut.

6The bombings damaged more than 100,000 housing units and the overall economic loss was estimated to be 2.8 billion dollars, including 1.7 related to the destruction of housing units.

Figure I-12: A destroyed residential building in the southern suburb of Beirut (source: L. Démarais, 07/09/2006)

Figure I-12: A destroyed residential building in the southern suburb of Beirut (source: L. Démarais, 07/09/2006)

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure I-9: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13208/img-1.png
Fichier image/, 140k
Titre Figure I-10: Demolitions in Lebanon and the Greater Beirut
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13208/img-2.png
Fichier image/, 139k
Titre Figure I-11: Damages caused to housing units in South Lebanon in 2006
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13208/img-3.png
Fichier image/, 113k
Titre Figure I-12: A destroyed residential building in the southern suburb of Beirut (source: L. Démarais, 07/09/2006)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13208/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/, 592k

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