A Brief History of the Lebanese Civil War

Jana Ismail & Nader Durgham

Senior Staff Writer & Staff Writer


Forty-two years after its start, people can barely imagine the scale and impact of events that took place during the Lebanese civil war. The younger generation is often not well informed about the details of what truly happened during this war.  

To better understand the Lebanese civil war, here is a summarized timeline of what shaped the Lebanon we know today.

April 13, 1975: Lebanese Phalangists attacked a bus full of Palestinian civilians in Ail El Remmaneh. This attack caused several clashes between Palestinians and Phalangists, and is commonly interpreted as the trigger of the war.

June 1976: Syrian troops entered Lebanon.

March 14, 1978: Israeli troops invaded part of the south of Lebanon in order to attack the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, which was residing there. This attack is known as “Operation Litani” which was named after Lebanon’s Litani river.

June 6, 1982: Israel launched a large scale invasion that allowed its army to reach Beirut’s southern suburb. Led by Ariel Sharon, this invasion killed more than 1,800 people, amongst which many were Lebanese civilians.

September 14, 1982: Lebanese President and Phalangist Bachir Gemayel was assassinated after an explosion took place at his headquarters in Beirut.

September 15-16, 1982: Militiamen attacked the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. This led to the death of 2000 to 3000 Palestinian civilians.  

June 1st, 1987: Lebanese Prime Minister, Rashid Karami, died following a bomb explosion in his helicopter. Selim El-Hoss succeeded him.

September 22, 1988: Amin Gemayel’s presidency ended without a successor. As a result, Lebanon was operated by two opposing governments: General Michel Aoun’s military government and Selim El-Hoss’ civil government.

September 22, 1989: Under the leadership of Rafik el-Hariri, Lebanese and Arab leaders met in Taif, Saudi Arabia. This led to the birth of the Taif agreement that laid the ground for the end of the war. It divided the positions of power in Lebanon equally between Christians and Muslims. To this day, the president remains a Christian Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the parliament a Shiite Muslim.

October 13, 1990: This date marked the official end of the civil war, following Michel Aoun’s exile to Paris. The Lebanese civil war saw the death of 150,000 to 200,000 people between 1975 and 1990.


To this day, the death toll remains approximative, and no official record of the Lebanese Civil War has been written. While the war may have physically ended in 1990, it’s devastating impact is still present and felt in 2017.

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