Lebanon

الجمهورية اللبنانية
Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Lubnāniyyah
Lebanese Republic
Flag of Lebanon Coat of arms of Lebanon
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Kūllūnā li-l-waṭan, li-l-'ula wa-l-'alam  (Arabic)
"We are all for our Nation, for our Glory and Flag!"
Anthem: Kulluna lil-watan lil 'ula lil-'alam
Capital Beirut
Largest city Beirut
Official language Arabic (and formerly French)
Government Republic
 - President Émile Lahoud
 - Prime Minister Fouad Siniora
Independence  
 - Declared November 26, 1941 
 - Recognized November 22 1943 
Area
 - Total 10,452 km² (166th)
4,035 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 1.6
Population
 - 2006 estimate 3,874,050 (113th)
 - Density 358/km² (26th)
948/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $24.42 billion (103rd)
 - Per capita 6,681 (90th)
HDI  (2006) 0.774 (medium) (78th)
Currency Lebanese lira (LL) (LBP)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .lb
Calling code +961

Lebanon (Arabic: لبنان ), officially the Lebanese Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية ), is a small, largely mountainous country in the Middle East, located at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south. The flag of Lebanon features the Lebanon Cedar in green against a white backdrop, with two horizontal red stripes on the top and bottom. Due to its sectarian diversity, Lebanon follows a special political system, known as confessionalism, meant to distribute power as evenly as possible among different sects.[1]

Until the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the country enjoyed relative calm and prosperity, driven by the tourism, agriculture, and banking sectors of the economy.[2] It was considered the banking capital of the Arab world and was widely known as the "Switzerland of the Middle East"[3][4] due to its financial power. Lebanon also attracted large numbers of tourists,[5] to the point that the capital Beirut became widely referred to as the "Paris of the Middle East."[6]

Immediately following the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.[7] By early 2006, a considerable degree of stability had been achieved throughout much of the country, Beirut's reconstruction was almost complete,[8] and an increasing number of foreign tourists were pouring into Lebanon's resorts.[5] However, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict brought mounting civilian and military casualties, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, and massive population displacement from July 12, 2006 until a ceasefire went into effect on August 14, 2006. As of September 2006, the Lebanese government has been implementing an early recovery plan aimed at reconstructing property destroyed by Israeli attacks in Beirut, Tyre, and other villages in southern Lebanon.

Contents

[edit]

Etymology

The name Lebanon ("Lubnān" in standard Arabic; "Lebnan" or "Lebnèn" in local dialect) is derived from the Semitic root "LBN", which is linked to several closely-related meanings in various languages, such as white and milk.[9] This is regarded as reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.[10] Occurrences of the name have been found in three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (2900 bc), the texts of the library of Elba (2400 bc), and the Bible.[10]

[edit]

Geography and climate

A Middle Eastern country, Lebanon is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west with a 225 km coastline, by Syria to the east and north, and by Israel to the south. The Lebanon-Syria border stretches for 375 km, while the Lebanon-Israel border is 79 km in length. The border with the Israel-occupied Golan Heights in Syria is disputed by Lebanon in a small area called Shebaa Farms, but the border has been demarcated by the United Nations[11] (see Blue Line).

Lebanon has a total area of 10,452 km² (4,035 mi²), making it the 178th largest country in the world.[12] Most of that area is mountainous terrain,[13] except for the narrow coastline and the Beqaa Valley, an integral part of Lebanon's agriculture.

Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. In coastal areas, winters are generally cool and rainy whilst summers are hot and humid. In more elevated areas, temperatures usually drop below 0°C during the winter with frequent (sometimes heavy) snow; summers, on the other hand, are warm and dry.[14] Although most of Lebanon receives a relatively large amount of rainfall annually (compared to its arid surroundings), certain areas in north-eastern Lebanon receive little rainfall. This is due to the fact that the high peaks of the western mountain front block much of the rain clouds that originate over the Mediterranean Sea.[15]

In ancient times, Lebanon housed large forests of cedar trees, which now serve as the country's national emblem.[16] However, centuries of trading cedar trees, used by ancient mariners for boats, and the absence of any efforts to replant them have depleted Lebanon's once-flourishing cedar forests.[16]

[edit]

Administrative divisions

Districts of Lebanon
Districts of Lebanon

Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohaafazaat, Arabic: محافظات —singular mohafazah, Arabic: محافظة) which are further subdivided into twenty-five districts (aqdya—singular: qadaa).[17] The districts themselves are also divided into several municipalities, each enclosing a group of cities or villages. The governorates and their respective districts are listed below:

Beirut Governorate

The Beirut Governorate is not divided into districts and is limited to the city of Beirut.

Nabatiyeh Governorate (Jabal Amel) - 4 districts
  • Nabatieh
  • Hasbaya
  • Marjeyoun
  • Bint Jbeil
Beqaa Governorate - 5 districts
  • Hermel
  • Baalbek
  • Zahle
  • Western Beqaa (al-Beqaa al-Gharbi)
  • Rashaya
North Governorate (al-Shamal) - 7 districts
  • Akkar
  • Tripoli
  • Zgharta
  • Bsharri
  • Batroun
  • Koura
  • Miniyeh-Danniyeh
Mount Lebanon Governorate (Jabal Lubnan) - 6 districts
  • Jbeil
  • Kesrwan
  • Matn
  • Baabda
  • Aley
  • Chouf
South Governorate (al-Janoub) - 3 districts
  • Sidon (Sida)
  • Tyre (Sur)
  • Jezzine
[edit]

Demographics

[edit]

Lebanese people

Lebanese people in Lebanon and all over the world have made substantial contributions to Lebanon and Humanity. A List of Lebanese people will sum up the contributions of the Lebanese and persons of Lebanese descent worldwide.

[edit]

Demographics

No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (i.e. religious) balance.[18] It is estimated that about 39% are Christians (mostly Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Melkite Greek Catholics), 35% are Shia Muslims, 21% are Sunni Muslims and 5% are Druze [19]. A small minority of Jews live in central Beirut, Byblos, and Bhamdoun. Lebanon has a population of Kurds (also known as Mhallamis or Mardins), estimated to be between 75,000 and 100,000 and considered to be part of the Sunni population.[20]

The number of those inhabiting Lebanon proper was estimated at 3,874,050 in July 2006.[19] There are approximately 16 million people of Lebanese descent, spread all over the world, Brazil being the country with the biggest Lebanese community abroad.[21] Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Great Britain, Mexico, Venezuela and the US also have large Lebanese communities.

A total of 394,532 Palestinian refugees have registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (unrwa) since 1948.[22] Government restrictions on Palestinian refugees have made it impossible for them to own property[23] and prior to June 7, 2005 there were 72 professions that they were not allowed to practice in Lebanon.[24]

The urban population in Lebanon is noted for its commercial enterprise.[25] Over the course of time, emigration has yielded Lebanese "commercial networks" throughout the world.[26] Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labour comparable to most European nations and the highest among Arab countries.[27]

One notable aspect of Lebanon's social system and laws is the denial of citizenship rights to a child born to a Lebanese mother and a non-Lebanese father;[28][29][30] a child is eligible to receive Lebanese citizenship only if the father is Lebanese.[31] Such gender discrimination has disenfranchised children of Lebanese descent for generations and motivated women's rights groups to support campaigns for women's nationality rights.[32][30]

[edit]

Economy

[edit]

Sectors of the economy

[edit]

Agriculture

Lebanon is suited for agricultural activities in terms of water availability and soil fertility, as it possesses the highest proportion of cultivable land in the Arab world.[33] However, Lebanon does not have a large agricultural sector. Attracting a mere 12% of the total workforce,[34] agriculture is the least popular economic sector in Lebanon. It contributes approximately 11.7% of the country's GDP, also placing it in the lowest rank compared to other economic sectors.[35]

[edit]

Industry

Lebanon's lack of raw materials for industry and its complete dependency on Arab countries for oil have made it difficult for the Lebanese to engage in significant industrial activity. As such, industry in Lebanon is mainly limited to small businesses concerned with reassembling and packaging imported parts. In 2004, industry ranked second in workforce, with 26% of the Lebanese working population,[34] and also second in GDP contribution, with 21% of Lebanon's GDP.[35]

[edit]

Services and commerce

A combination of beautiful climate, many historic landmarks and World Heritage Sites has continually attracted large numbers of tourists to Lebanon annually, in spite of its political instability. In addition, Lebanon's strict financial secrecy and capitalist economy—unique in its area—have given it significant economic status among Arab countries. The thriving tourism and banking activities have naturally made the services sector the most important pillar of the Lebanese economy. The majority of the Lebanese workforce (nearly 65%)[34] have preferred employment in the services sector, as a result of the abundant job opportunities and large paychecks. The GDP contribution, accordingly, is very large and amounts to roughly 67.3% of the annual Lebanese GDP.[35]

The economy's dependence on services has always been an issue of great criticism and concern, since this renders the country subject to the instability of this sector and the vagaries of international trade.

[edit]

Historical development

The 1975-1990 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepôt and banking hub.[19] The subsequent period of relative peace enabled the central government to restore control in Beirut, begin collecting taxes, and regain access to key port and government facilities. Economic recovery has been helped by a financially sound banking system and resilient small- and medium-scale manufacturers, with family remittances, banking services, manufactured and farm exports, and international aid as the main sources of foreign exchange.[36]

Until the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Lebanon's economy witnessed excellent growth, with bank assets reaching over 75 billion dollars.[37] By the end of the first half of 2006, the influx of tourists to Lebanon has already registered a 49.3% increase over 2005 figures.[37] Market capitalization was also at an all time high, estimated at $10.9 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2006, just weeks before the fighting started.[37]

Beirut International airport re-opened in September 2006 and the efforts to revive the Lebanese economy have since been proceeding at a slow pace. Major contributors to the reconstruction of Lebanon include Saudi Arabia (with 1.5 billion US dollars pledged),[38] the European Union (with about $1 billion)[39] and a few other Gulf countries with contributions of up to $800 million.[40]

[edit]

Education

[edit]

Schools

All Lebanese schools are required by the government to follow a prescribed curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education. Private schools, approximately 1,400 in all,[41] may also add more courses to their curriculum with approval from the Ministry of Education. The main subjects taught are Mathematics, Sciences, History, Civics, Geography, Arabic, and French, English or both. Other rotating teachers within the school teach Physical Education, Art, and at times library use. The subjects gradually increase in difficulty and in number. Students in Grade 11, for example, usually study up to eighteen different subjects.

The government introduces a mild form of selectivity into the curriculum by giving 11th graders choice between two "concentrations": Sciences or Humanities, and 12th graders choice between four concentrations: Life Sciences (SV), General Sciences (SG), Sociology and Economics (SE), and Humanities and Literature (LH). The choices in concentration do not include major changes in the number of subjects taken (if at all). However, subjects that fall out of the concentration are given less weight in grading and are less rigorous, while subjects that fall within the concentration are more challenging and contribute significantly to the final grade.

Students go through three academic phases:

These three phases are provided free to all students and the first eight years are, by law, compulsory.[42] Nevertheless, this requirement currently falls short of being fully enforced.

[edit]

Higher education

Following high school, Lebanese students may choose to study at a university, a college, or a vocational training institute. The number of years to complete each program varies.

Lebanon has twenty-one universities, several of which are internationally recognized. The American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) were the first English and the first French universities to open in Lebanon respectively.[43][44] The twenty-one universities, both public and private, largely operate in French, or English as these are the most widely used foreign languages in Lebanon.[45]

At the English universities, students who have graduated from an American-style high school program enter at the freshman level to earn their baccalaureate equivalence from the Lebanese Ministry of Higher Education. This qualifies them to continue studying at the higher levels. Such students are required to have already taken the SAT I and the SAT II upon applying to college, in lieu of the official exams. On the other hand, students who have graduated from a school that follows the Lebanese educational system are directly admitted to the sophomore year. These students are still required to take the SAT I, but not the SAT II.

[edit]

Culture

The Triumphal Arch in Tyre
The Triumphal Arch in Tyre
[edit]

Overview

The area including modern Lebanon has been for thousands of years a melting pot of various civilizations and cultures. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon's diverse population comprising of different ethnic and religious groups has further contributed to the country's lively festivals, highly successful musical styles and literature as well as their rich cuisine - and numerous violent clashes amongst different religious and ethnic groups. When compared to the rest of the Middle East, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated, and as of 2003 87.4% of the population was literate[46]. Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. Not only is Lebanon a distinctive fusion of Christian and Muslim traditions unequaled in the rest of the region, it also serves as the European gateway to the Middle East as well as the Arab gateway to the Western World. [47]

[edit]

Languages

Arabic is the official language of Lebanon.[48] French, too, is widely spoken and was an official langage during the French mandate (which lasted until 1943). Spoken Lebanese is quite different from the standard written Arabic language which is taught in schools along with the other foreign languages. English has become very popular in recent years as well,[48] especially among university students, as a second or sometimes third language.

[edit]

Cuisine

The Lebanese cuisine combines the sophistication of European cuisines with the exotic ingredients of the Middle East.[49] Some of the most popular local dishes include Kibbeh—a lamb-and-cracked-wheat dish, often grilled or fried—and Tabbouleh, a salad made with cracked wheat, finely chopped parsley, tomato, onions and olive oil.[50] The Lebanese also enjoy eating food from many different regions;[50] fast food has also gained widespread popularity, especially among the Lebanese youth.

[edit]

Arts and literature

In literature, Gibran Khalil Gibran is known to be one of the world's famous writers, particularly known for his book The Prophet, which has been translated into more than twenty different languages.[51]

In art, Moustapha Farroukh and Alfred Bassbouss are known to be very famous for their art.

[edit]

Festivals

Several international festivals are held in Lebanon, featuring world-renowned artists and drawing crowds from Lebanon and abroad. Among the most famous are the summer festivals at Baalbek, Beiteddine, and Byblos. Beirut in particular has a very vibrant arts scene, with numerous performances, exhibits, fashion shows, and concerts held throughout the year in its galleries, museums, theatres, and public spaces.

[edit]

Politics

Lebanon

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Lebanon


  • Constitution
  • President
    • Émile Lahoud
  • Prime Minister
    • Fouad Siniora
    • Present government
  • Parliament
    • Speaker
  • Political parties
  • Elections
  • Governorates
  • Districts
  • Foreign relations

Other countries • Politics Portal

Lebanon is a parliamentary, democratic republic, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[52] This system, meant to insure that sectarian conflict is kept at bay, attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of religious sects in the governing body. As such, high-ranking offices in the government are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Catholic Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Deputy Prime Minister an Orthodox Christian, and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim.[53][54]

The Lebanese parliament building at the Place d'Étoile
The Lebanese parliament building at the Place d'Étoile

This trend continues in the distribution of the 128 parliamentary seats, which are divided in half between Muslims and Christians. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[53] According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years, although for much of Lebanon’s recent history, civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term. At the urging of the Syrian government, this constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad hoc amendment twice in recent history. Elias Hrawi’s term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years.[55] This procedure, denounced by pro-democracy campaigners, was repeated in 2004 to allow Émile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007.[56]

The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the parliament (which is, in most cases, binding).[57] Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon's judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s floundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics. Additionally, Lebanon has a system of military courts that also has jurisdiction over civilians for crimes of espionage, treason, and other crimes that are considered to be security-related.[58] These military courts have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for "seriously fall[ing] short of international standards for fair trial" and having "very wide jurisdiction over civilians".[59]

[edit]

History

Inscription in Greek on one of the tombs found in the Roman-Byzantine necropolis in Tyre.
Inscription in Greek on one of the tombs found in the Roman-Byzantine necropolis in Tyre.
[edit]

Ancient history

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Alexander the Great.[60] Alexander burned Tyre, the leading Phoenician city, ending the Phoenician independence. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

[edit]

French mandate and independence

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, but following World War I, the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria. Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate for Syria.

Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[61] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

The flag of Greater Lebanon (1920-1943).
The flag of Greater Lebanon (1920-1943).

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Christian and its prime minister be Muslim.

Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.

[edit]

1948 Arab-Israeli war

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon joined its fellow Arab states and invaded Israel [citation needed] during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while attempting an attack on the newly-proclaimed Jewish State.[citation needed] After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram,[62] Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. Approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon in 1949 as a result of the creation of Israel and the subsequent war.[63] The Lebanese-Israeli border remained closed, but quiet, until after the Six Day War in 1967.

[edit]

Civil war and beyond

Building damaged during the 1975-1990 civil war.
Building damaged during the 1975-1990 civil war.

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country's economy, and resulting in the massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 maimed.[64] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.[65]

During the civil war, Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982.[66] Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence.[67] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Sheb'a Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area and what they proclaim to be 'occupied Palestine were liberated.[8][9]

After the end of the civil war, Lebanon saw a period of relative calm until the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

[edit]

Recent events

[edit]

Cedar Revolution

[edit]

Assassinations

Rafik Hariri  (1944-2005)
Rafik Hariri (1944-2005)

On February 14 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion.[68] Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack,[69] due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud's term in office. Syria denied any involvement.[69] Others, namely the Forces of March 8, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the American CIA or the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.[citation needed]

The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures. On June 3, 2005, the journalist and historian Samir Kassir, also a founding member of the Democratic Left Movement was assassinated by a car bomb.[70] Less than one month later, on June 21, 2005, George Hawi, the former Secretary General of the Lebanese Communist Party was also assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut. [71]

On September 25, 2005, there was a failed assassination attempt on a Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation news anchor, in which May Chidiac lost her left leg below the knee and received severe injuries to her left arm, later resulting in the amputation of her left hand.[72] She later won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2006.[73] Editor-in-chief and CEO of the An-Nahar newspaper, journalist Gebran Tueni, was assassinated by a car bomb in the suburbs of Beirut on December 12, 2005.[74]

[edit]

Investigation

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[75] The findings of the investigation were officially published on 20 October, 2005 in the Mehlis report.[76] The report suggested the assassination was carried out by a group with considerable resources, that it had been prepared many months in advance, and that the group had detailed knowledge of Hariri’s movements.[77]

International forensic teams identified the vehicle used for the explosion as a Mitsubishi Canter stolen on 12 October, 2004 in Sagamihara, Japan.[78] They also concluded that the explosion was most likely detonated by a suicide bomber.[78] This investigation into the Hariri assassination is ongoing and has yet to be concluded. On 17 January, 2006 the UN appointed Serge Brammertz to continue the investigation;[79] the report from this investigation has yet to be published.

[edit]

Demonstrations

On February 28, 2005, with over 50,000 people demonstrating in Martyrs' Square, Prime Minister Omar Karami and his Cabinet resigned.[80] In response, Hezbollah organized a large counter-demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands of people,[81][82] which was staged on March 8 in Beirut, supporting Syria and accusing Israel and the United States of meddling in internal Lebanese affairs.

On March 14, 2005, one month after Hariri's assassination, throngs of people rallied in Martyrs' Square in Lebanon with around 1 million people.[81][83] Protesters marched demanding the truth about Hariri's murder and independence from Syrian presence in Lebanon. The march reiterated their desire for a sovereign, democratic, and unified country, free of Syria's hegemony.

In the weeks following the demonstrations, bombs were detonated in Christian areas near Beirut.[84] Although the damage was mostly material, these acts threatened to drag Lebanon back into sectarian strife.

Eventually, and under pressure from the international community, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[85] By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[86] On April 27, 2005, the Lebanese celebrated their first free-from-Syria day. UN forces led by Senegalese Brig. Gen. Mouhamadou Kandji were sent to Lebanon to verify the military withdrawal which was mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1559.[87]

[edit]

Elections

During the first parliamentary elections held after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2005, the anti-Syrian coalition of Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties led by Saad Hariri, son of assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, won a majority of seats in the new Parliament.[88] The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), though not allied with the Rafik Hariri Martyr List during the elections, garnered strong representation in the newly elected Parliament.[89]

The political alliances were interesting in that in some areas the anti-Syrian coalition allied with Hezbollah and in others with Amal. They did not win the two-thirds majority required to force the resignation of Syrian-appointed President Lahoud voted for by Rafik Hariri parliamentary bloc, due to the unexpectedly strong showing of formerly exiled General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement party in Mount Lebanon. Despite being staunchly anti-Syrian during his 15-year exile, upon his return Aoun aligned himself with politicians who were friendly to the Syrians in the past decade: Soleiman Franjieh Jr and Michel Murr. Their alliance dominated the north and the Matn District of Mount Lebanon. Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt joined forces with the two staunchly pro-Syrian Shiite movements, Hezbollah and Amal, to secure major wins in the South, Beqaa, as well as the Baabda and Aley districts of Mount Lebanon. This alliance proved temporary. On February 6, 2006, Hezbollah signed an understanding of disarmament with Michel Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement.

After the elections, Hariri's Future Movement party, now the country's dominant political force, nominated Fouad Siniora, a former Finance Minister, to be Prime Minister.[90] His newly formed representative government has obtained the vote of confidence from the parliament.

On July 18, 2005, Lebanon elected a new parliament dominated by an anti-Syrian coalition. This parliament approved a motion to free Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces,[91] who had spent most of the past eleven years in solitary confinement in an underground cell with no access to news.[92] The motion was endorsed by pro-Syrian Lebanese President Émile Lahoud the next day.[93]

[edit]

2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict

Areas in Lebanon targeted by Israeli bombing, 12 July to 13 August 2006.
Areas in Lebanon targeted by Israeli bombing, 12 July to 13 August 2006.
[edit]

Major events

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation, killing three others, and simultaneously launched a missile attack along the border. The operation was considered "an act of war" by Israel. That night, after a failed rescue attempt that resulted in the deaths of five more Israeli soldiers,[94] Israel launched a massive military operation on Lebanon. The stated goals of the operation, which two US scholars claimed to have been planned in advance,[95] were to retrieve the captured soldiers, eliminate Hezbollah and shield residents of Northern Israel from Hezbollah's rocket attacks.

The operation quickly developed into a widespread "open war" as Israel's air force continued to bombard large areas in Lebanon, resulting in the near-total destruction of Lebanon's main infrastructure, the displacement of over a million Lebanese civilians, and placing over three million civilians under siege. One of the first targets of the Israeli air attacks was the Rafic Hariri International Airport in southern Beirut. The Israeli air strikes on the fuel tanks at the Jiyyeh power station 20 miles south of Beirut resulted in the largest ever oil spill in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.[96] With the commencement of hostilities, Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets into Northern Israel at the rate of 100-200 rockets a day.

Following several weeks of negotiations, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 1701 which called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and an international embargo on supplying arms to Hezbollah.[97] Three days later, on August 14, 2006, the partial ceasefire came into effect.[98]

However, Israel continued to impose a naval and aerial blockade on Lebanon, in a attempt to prevent arms from reaching Hezbollah. By September 8, 2006, both blockades had been lifted. During and after that period, several breaches of the cease-fire have been recorded.[98]

Most Israeli troops withdrew in October, 2006, but the last of the troops continued to occupy the border village of Ghajar until December 3, 2006.[99] Conversely, the Lebanese government began expanding the size of the Lebanese army in Southern Lebanon, fulfilling its promise of sending 15,000 additional troops to the area.[100]

[edit]

Aftermath

The level of destruction that hit Lebanon has been described by the country's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as "unimaginable." Much of Lebanon's infrastructure was destroyed, mainly bridges and roads, and estimates of the overall damage approached $15 billion[101].

As a result of the conflict, 1,191 Lebanese civilians were killed and 4,409 injured[102]. In addition, approximately 1,000,000 Lebanese were displaced and forced to flee to safer areas. On the Israeli side, 44 civilians were killed and approximately 1,350 injured. Estimates of the number of Hezbollah fighters killed range from 80 to 700, while 119 IDF soldiers were confirmed killed and approximately 400 injured. The two young Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser who were captured by Hezbollah guerrillas may now be dead. [103]

Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah, a guerilla group that also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities was the main aid and social service provider to the Lebanese in the Shiite areas. [citation needed]. Internationally, many countries have provided much-needed aid to Lebanon. Major contributors include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt among others. During the war, the Jordanians helped by loading planes with about 67,500 blankets and mattresses as well as boxes of drugs and food. Sea routes were used to bring in supplies in large quantities to help some of the displaced people living in schools and with host families in Lebanon.

In the aftermath of the war and in response to the growing international pressure for disarming Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, held a "victory celebration" in southern Beirut on September 22, 2006, which was attended by hundreds of thousands[104][105][106] in a show of support to the continuing "resistance". During the proceedings, Nasrallah proclaimed that no one would ever disarm Hezbollah and vowed to take action in retaliation for Israeli hostilities. He also added that, should Lebanon become capable of self-defense, Hezbollah would willingly lay down its arms.[107]

[edit]

Current situation

 This article documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Lebanon's current situation is highly fragile, as opposition to the standing government recently spiked in an uprising reminiscent of the Cedar Revolution and the events that precipitated the 1975-1990 civil war. Hezbollah, a guerrilla group that gained increasing political clout after its summer war with Israel [108] and that is currently the most powerful militia in Lebanon, the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), and the Amal Movement joined forces, demanding more seats in the government. They claimed that this was necessary in order to establish a "national unity government"[109][110], while others viewed it was an attempt to gain veto power over all government actions.[111][112] The opposition group claimed that the current distribution of seats in both the Parliament and the Cabinet did not reflect the true will [citation needed] of the Lebanese people, demanding the immediate resignation of the current government as well as early elections. After the majority government coalition refused, and two weeks before a vote on the creation of an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri[112], five Shiite Ministers from Hezbollah and Amal resigned, along with one Christian Minister from the Free Patriotic Movement.[113] One week later, Lebanon's Minister of Industry Pierre Amine Gemayel, was assassinated by gunmen in the outskirts of Beirut. This created a political crisis because if nine or more ministers left the Cabinet or died, the government would automatically fall.[citation needed] On November 27, 2006, the Cabinet passed the draft accord supporting the creation of an international tribunal to investigate Hariri's assassination, without the Ministers from the opposition group.

On December 1, 2006, a day after Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address had called on people from "different regions, thoughts, beliefs, religions, ideologies and different traditions" to take part in the 2006 Lebanese Anti-Government Protest [111][114], an estimated 800,000 demonstrators amassed peacefully in downtown Beirut.[115] By nighttime, several thousand protestors remained to begin a sit-in, setting up tents and vowing to not leave until Prime Minister Fouad Siniora resigns.[116][117]

Sporadic, violent clashes between pro-government and anti-government groups have flared up, stoking the fears of a possible civil war, leaving one man dead and 21 injured. Nonetheless, the daily protests and nightly sit-ins continue.

On December 7, 2006, Le Monde reported that a top UN official has been informed by Abbas Zaki, the Palestinian Liberation Organization representative in Lebanon, of an assassination plot, by Fatah Al-Islam, a group of 50 al-Qaeda jihadist militants from Iraq, who entered Lebanon via Syria, to assassinate 36 anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon. [118][119] The group set up operations in the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.[119]

Also on December 7, 2006, Hassan Nasrallah issued another televised speech calling for further protests, and demanded that the death of Ahmad Mahmoud should not serve as an excuse for any violent clashes.[120] He also made a solemn oath that Lebanon's Shiites would not be "dragged" into a sectarian war with Sunnis.[121]

On December 8, 2006, Israel warns the U.N. force in South Lebanon that al-Qaida is planning a terrorist attack against international peacekeepers. [122]

On December 9, 2006, Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud rejected the proposal passed without representation from the opposition group on November 27, 2006, blocking the creation of the international tribunal to investigate Hariri's assassination, citing the Cabinet as unconstitutional.[123] The Cabinet is expected to seek parliamentary approval for the tribunal without the President's signature, however Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the Parliament and leader of the pro-Syrian opposition group Amal, is not expected to convene the Parliament for a vote, citing similar unconstitutionality grounds. Berri supposedly received a death threat from Maher al-Assad, the younger brother of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, threatening Berri if he convenes Parliament for a vote on the accord.[124][125]

On December 10, 2006, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accepted in principle an Arab League plan to stabilize the Lebanese political crisis. According to the plan, the number of ministers in the Lebanese government will grow to 30. Two thirds of them will represent the parliamentary majority and one third will be from the opposition. The plan also gives the new government power to establish a new international court for the investigation of the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said "We don't want Lebanon to be an arena of the wars of others. Lebanon is a nation, not an arena," in a veiled reference to Hezbollah's backers in Syria and Iran.[126]

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See also

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