The unintended consequences of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon

Posted: June 7, 2022 by chrisharper in middle east
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By Christopher Harper

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which began 40 years ago this week, created a variety of unintended consequences from the rise of militant Islam to a Shia swath from Lebanon to the Arab Gulf. 

I traveled as a reporter throughout the Arab World for many years, covering some of the worst episodes of human despair and devastation of the 20th century. But the Israeli invasion, which began with Tel Aviv’s goal of removing the Palestine Liberation Organization from Lebanon, had a devastating effect on the world.

On June 6, 1982, Israeli forces launched an invasion of Lebanon called “Operation Peace for Galilee.” About 60,000 troops and more than 800 tanks, heavily supported by aircraft, attack helicopters, artillery, and missile boats, crossed the Israel–Lebanon border. A few days later, the Israelis and their Christian allies had encircled Beirut, where my colleagues and I reported on a siege that would end nearly three months later when the PLO evacuated Lebanon for other Arab countries.

Accurate casualty figures are difficult to find, but the independent Beirut newspaper An Nahar published an estimate of deaths from hospital and police records that claimed that more than 17,000 people died, roughly half civilians.

After the PLO’s departure, Christian forces murdered between 700 and 2,000 people in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in South Beirut. Israeli forces stood by as the massacre happened in September. I worked on an excellent documentary about the tragedy, “Oh, Tell the World What Happened,” for ABC News.

Although the PLO had many flaws, it was distinctly nonreligious. After the Israelis drove the PLO from Lebanon, Shia Muslims took control of the Lebanese government, creating an even more hostile force with Syria and Iran’s military and religious backing. That resulted in an attack on October 23, 1983, when 241 Marines and seamen died in a truck bombing in Beirut. The attack used Iranian funds, Syrian know-how, and Shia bombers. 

Here is the ABC 20/20 investigation I produced:



The cross-border confrontations between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia group in Lebanon, led to a war in 2006, which emboldened the Islamists. Furthermore, Hezbollah joined forces with Hamas, a Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip that continues to harass Israel today.

The Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon became a critical training ground for guerrillas and terrorists worldwide under the control of both Sunni and Shia extremists. Many foreign soldiers who fought U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s got some of their training in the Bekaa Valley. 

It’s rare that a decision from 40 years ago continues to create havoc, but that’s precisely what occurred when Israel decided to invade Lebanon in 1982. 

  1. bob sykes says:

    Hezbollah was emboldened in 2006, because they actually defeated the Israelis, and forced them to withdraw.

    Israeli’s great dilemma is that they have captured some 7 million Arabs, and now must control them. The violence of the radical Israeli orthodox against the Arabs does not help, especially the repeated attacks by the settlers on the Temple Mount.

    A two state solution requires Israeli withdrawal to something like the 1948 UN borders, i. e., complete withdrawal, including settlers, from the West Bank. Israeli security fears, based on clear danger from Arab radicals, prevent this.

    Some sort of appalling tragedy is lurking in the future.