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French Version

Key events in 29-year Syrian presence in Lebanon

Syria, under intense international pressure to end its powerful military and political hold on neighboring Lebanon, was due to redeploy its troops towards the border. Following is a list of key events during the 29-year presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, which had reached a high of 35,000 by the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990.

1975 April: Clashes, viewed as the start of Lebanon’s 15-year-long civil war, erupt in Beirut.

1976 June: Syrian troops enter Lebanon to restore peace but also to curb an advance by the Palestinians and Muslim camps against the Christians.

October: After Arab summits in Riyadh and Cairo, a cease-fire is arranged and a predominantly Syrian Arab Deterrent Force established to maintain it, with an Arab League mandate.

1978 March 14: Israel launches major invasion of Lebanon, occupying land as far north as the Litani river, south of Beirut, in reprisal for a Palestinian attack into its territory.

1982 June 6: After attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Israel launches fullscale invasion of Lebanon.

September 16-18: Phalangist militia slaughter Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut, under eyes of Israeli forces.

1983 May 17: Israel and Lebanon sign accord on Israeli withdrawal, establishing a security region in Southern Lebanon.

1984 March 4: Under Syrian pressure, Lebanon cancels May 1983 agreement with Israel.

1985 June: Most Israeli troops withdraw but some remain to support its proxy force – the mainly Christian South Lebanon Army, led by Antoine Lahad.

1988 September: Lebanon has two governments – one mainly Muslim in West Beirut, and one Christian, in East Beirut led by Maronite General Michel Aoun.

1989 March 14: Aoun declares a “war of liberation” against the Syrian presence.

October: Lebanese national assembly, meeting in the Saudi mountain resort of Taif endorses the Taif Accord, which ends the civil war and calls for a Syrian pullback to the eastern Bekaa Valley, but does not set a date for the full pullout.

1990 October 13: Syrian Air Force attacks presidential palace and Aoun takes refuge in French Embassy, events regarded as marking the end of the civil war.

1996 April 11: Israelis bomb Hizbullah bases in southern Lebanon, southern part of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, in “Operation Grapes of Wrath.”

April 26: US negotiates a truce an “understanding” under which Hizbullah and Palestinian guerrillas agree not to attack civilians in northern Israel but recognizes Hizbullah’s right to resist the Israeli occupation. Lebanon and Syria do not sign up to this but become part of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group, along with U.S., France and Israel.

1998 October 15: General Emile Lahoud, backed by Syria, is elected president by Parliament.

2000 May 24: After collapse of the South Lebanon Army and rapid advance of Hizbullah forces, Israel withdraws its troops from Lebanon.

2001 June: Syria redeploys some of its forces in Lebanon.

2002 April: Syria again scales back some of its forces.

2003 February and July: Syria carries out two more troop redeployments, bringing the figure down to between 16,000 and 18,000 soldiers.

2004 May 11: U.S. imposes sanctions on Syria. September 2: UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1559 calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and respect for its sovereignty.

September 3: Lebanese Parliament approves a controversial constitutional amendment giving Lahoud another three years in office.

September 21: Syrian forces evacuate military posts as part of the troop pullback eastwards towards the Syrian border.

October 20: Hariri resigns as prime minister in protest at the dominant political role of Damascus in his country to be replaced by pro-Syrian deputy Omar Karami six days later.

December 13: For the first time since 1975, a united opposition denounces the Syrian presence and calls for the government to resign.

December 18: Syria redeploys its secret service in Lebanon, admitting its presence in the country for the first time. They close posts at Beirut international airport, near the Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh, and in Batroun.

2005 February 14: Hariri assassinated in a massive bomb explosion that struck his motorcade on Beirut seafront, also killing 17 other people.

February 15: The UN Security Council requests an urgent report into the “terrorist” assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister and again presses Syria to pull its forces out of the country.

February 21: U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac unite in calling for a Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon.

February 24: Syria due to redeploy its troops toward the border.

Beirut 04-03-2005
The Daily Star

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