Syria's involvement in Lebanon were aimed not only at Israel, but also the US. In April 1983, Hizbullah terrorists, operating from Syrian-controlled territory, bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 49 and wounding 120. Six months later, Hizbollah terrorists drove two trucks carrying explosives into the U.S. Marine and French military barracks near Beirut, killing 241 Americans and 56 French soldiers.
In October 1990, with the West's attention focused on Kuwait, Syrian troops stormed the Beirut stronghold of Christian insurgent Gen. Michel Aoun. Besides battle deaths, approximately 700 persons were massacred. With that blitzkrieg, Damascus wiped out the only remaining threat to its hegemony in Lebanon.
On May 22, 1991, Lebanese President Elias Hrawi traveled to Damascus to sign a "Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination" with Syrian President Hafez Assad. The agreement states that Syria will ensure Lebanon's "sovereignty and independence," while Damascus is being allowed to keep its occupation army in that country.
In addition to sanctioning terrorist activities in Lebanon, Syria is heavily involved in the narcotics trade in the Bekaa Valley. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized Syria for failing to enforce anti-narcotics controls and cooperate with American drug interdiction efforts. Despite Syria's involvement in peace talks with Israel, President Assad continued to support terrorism. Asked about his support for terrorist organizations like Hizbullah, Assad responded that they were really "patriots and militants who fight for the liberty and independence of their country...such people cannot be called terrorists". Since his father's death in 2000, Assad's son and successor, Bahsar, has every indication that his views are very much identical to his Father's. Recently the United States has called upon the leadership of Lebanon to facilitate the security of their border with Israel. While Israel has complied with UN Resolution 425 by withdrawing from South Lebanon, Syria remains the overseer of all that goes on in Lebanon!
Israel has long sought a peaceful northern border. But Lebanon's position as a haven for terrorist groups has made this impossible. In March 1978, PLO terrorists, under Yasser Arafat infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. The terrorists shot through the windows as the bus traveled down the highway. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew after two months, allowing United Nations forces to enter. But UN troops were unable to prevent terrorists from re-infiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms.
Violence escalated with a series of PLO attacks and Israeli reprisals. Finally, the United States helped broker a ceasefire agreement in July 1981. The PLO repeatedly violated the cease-fire over the ensuing 11 months. The PLO staged 270 terrorist actions in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and along the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Twentynine Israelis died and more than 300 were injured in the attacks. Meanwhile, a force of some 15-18,000 PLO members was encamped in scores of locations in Lebanon. About 5,000-6,000 were foreign mercenaries, coming from such countries as Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique. Israel later discovered enough light arms and other weapons in Lebanon to equip five brigades. The PLO also brought hundreds of T34 tanks into the area. Syria, which permitted Lebanon to become a haven for the PLO and other terrorist groups, brought surface-to-air missiles into that country, creating yet another danger for Israel. Israeli strikes and commando raids were unable to stem the growth of this PLO army. The situation in the Galilee became intolerable as the frequency of attacks forced thousands of residents to flee their homes or to spend large amounts of time in bomb shelters. Israel was not prepared to wait for more deadly attacks to be launched against its civilian population before acting against the terrorists.
The final provocation occurred in June 1982 when a Palestinian terrorist group led by Abu Nidal attempted to assassinate Israel's Ambassador to Great Britain, Shlomo Argov. The IDF subsequently attacked Lebanon again on June 4-5, 1982. The PLO responded with a massive artillery and mortar attack on the Israeli population of the Galilee. On June 6, the IDF moved into Lebanon to drive out the terrorists in "Operation Peace for Galilee."
The initial success of the Israeli operation led officials to broaden the objective to expel the PLO from Lebanon and induce the country's leaders to sign a peace treaty. In 1983, Lebanon's President, Amin Gemayel, signed a peace treaty with Israel. A year later, Syria forced Gemayel to renege on the agreement. The war then became drawn out as the IDF captured Beirut and surrounded Yasser Arafat and his guerrillas.
For the Arab residents of south Lebanon, PLO rule was a nightmare. After the PLO was expelled from Jordan by King Hussein in 1970, many of its cadres went to Lebanon. Countless Lebanese told harrowing tales of rape, mutilation and murders committed by PLO forces.
. When the IDF captured Beirut, the civilian population was forced to suffer because of the PLO's refusal to surrender. By mid-June, Israeli troops had surrounded 6,000-9,000 terrorists who had taken up positions amid the civilian population of West Beirut. To prevent civilian casualties, Israel agreed to a cease-fire to enable an American diplomat, Ambassador Philip Habib, to mediate a peaceful PLO withdrawal from Lebanon. As a gesture of flexibility, Israel agreed to permit PLO forces to leave Beirut with their personal weapons.
The Lebanon war provoked intense debate within Israel. For the first time in Israel's history, a consensus for war did not exist (though it did at the outset). Prime Minister Menachem Begin resigned as demands for an end to the fighting grew louder. The national coalition government that took office in 1984 decided to withdraw from Lebanon, leaving behind a token force to help the South Lebanese Army patrol a security zone near Israel's border. Though the IDF succeeded in driving the PLO out of Lebanon, it did not end the terrorist threats from that country. The war was also costly, 1,216 soldiers died between June 5, 1982, and May 31, 1985.
Jerusalem repeatedly stressed that Israel did not covet a single inch of Lebanese territory. Israel's 1985 withdrawal from Lebanon confirmed that. The small 1,000man Israeli force, deployed in a strip of territory extending eight miles into south Lebanon, protects towns and villages in northern Israel from attack. Israel also repeatedly said it would completely withdraw from Lebanon in return for a stable security situation on its northern border.
Most of the terrorist groups that threaten Israel have not been disarmed. For example, several thousand terrorists currently in Lebanon are members of Hezbollah. The group receives financial support and arms from Iran, usually via Damascus. Hezbollah-which had initially confined itself to launching Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel and ambushing Israeli troops in the security zone-has in recent years stepped up its attacks on Israeli civilians.
In April 1995, the IDF mounted "Operation Grapes of Wrath" to halt Hezbollah's bombardment of Israel's northern frontier. During the operation, Israeli artillery mistakenly hit a UN base in Kafr Kana, killing nearly 100 civilians. Afterward, a Joint Monitoring Machinery, including American, French, Syrian and Lebanese representatives, was created to prohibit unprovoked attacks on civilian populations and the use of civilians as shields for terrorist activities.
The Syrian-backed Lebanese Army has yet to take action against Hezbollah, or other terrorist organizations, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) or Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which have bases in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Syria, in fact, declared its unqualified support for stepped-up violence in the area. Consequently, attacks against Israeli troops in the Security Zone and civilians in northern Israel continued.
Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, ending a 22-year military presence there. All Israel Defense Force and South Lebanon Army outposts were evacuated. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and constituted an Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 of (1978). But, still the terrorist attacks continue, and new Syrian President Bashar Assad stated at the March 27th, 2001 Arab League Summit held in Amann, Jordan; that there can be no peace with Israel until the Golan Heights is returned to Syria. He further commented that all Jews were akin to Nazi's! Also, during the same week, speaking in Beirut, Lebanon: Jerusalem Temple Mount Mufti Feisal Husseini, and religious portfolio leader of the Palestinian Authority stated that there can be no peace until Israel is driven into the Mediterranean Sea.