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Lebanon-Israel War (1982)


The dislocation of Palestinian refugees

The Six-Day War and the Yom-Kippur War led to the dislocation of many Palestinian refugees to Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began to gain influence and develop infrastructure in the early 1970s. Initially, the PLO coexisted peacefully with Lebanon’s government. However, with the outbreak of the Lebanon Civil War in 1975, the PLO was allowed to operate more freely. Subsequently, its strength began to challenge Lebanese sovereignty. During both Operation Litani and the Lebanon War in 1982, the organization engaged in interactions with various Lebanese factions and Israeli forces. Ultimately, the PLO's presence and actions in Lebanon contributed to the course of the conflict, leaving a lasting impact on Lebanon's political and social fabric.


Additional context: 

  • Jasir Arafat became a leader of the PLO on 4th February 1969.
  • As a result of the Jordanian Revolution in 1970, the PLO was forced to move its bases from Jordan to Lebanon.
  • In the early 1970s, the PLO began to launch frequent attacks and bombardments against Israel from Southern Lebanon. 
  • The outbreak of the Lebanon Civil War allowed Syria to spread its influence within Lebanon.
  • On 28th October 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directives 64, calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and the reconstruction of its army. 
  • The invasion contributed to the formation of Hezbollah in 1982.


Operation Litani

On 11th March 1978, eleven members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) passed Israel’s security and entered the country undetected by sea from Lebanon. Subsequently, the group hijacked a bus along a coastal highway and killed thirty-five civilians, including thirteen children. In response to the brutal attack, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched an invasion of Southern Lebanon, aiming to dismantle the PLO’s structures. The main objective of the military operation was to push terrorists beyond the Litani River and establish security in Northern Israel. Cooperating with the Army of South Lebanon, Israel launched a ground deployment of troops on 14th March 1978. Within a week, the IDF overwhelmed the enemy and completed most of the operation’s objectives. The conflict ended on 21st March 1978, and Israel handed the occupied territory to the international military force set up by the United Nations Securities Council, the so-called United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. 


Invasion of Lebanon

While Operation Litani was widely successful, it did not fully eliminate the threat. The PLO continued to advocate for the violent liberation of Palestine and ramped up the attacks against important Israeli targets. On 3rd June 1982, Palestinian terrorists attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, in one of the London restaurants. In reciprocation to the attack, Israel decided to launch the operation Peace for Galilei three days later, on 6th June 1982. The primary goal of the operation was to push the terrorist group 40 kilometers (24 miles) to the north and once again establish some sense of security in Northern Israel. By 14th June 1982, the IDF ground forces reached the outskirts of Beirut, laying siege on the city, and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) destroyed Syrian missiles in Biqa Valley. The prospect of a major war quickly prompted the United States to become involved in the conflict through diplomatic efforts, brokering a ceasefire deal between Israel and the PLO. Under the agreement, the PLO and Syrian fighters were allowed to leave for neighboring countries in exchange for assurance that Palestinian civilians would be safe. Subsequently, the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF) was created to oversee the combatants’ withdrawal from Beirut, which began on 21st August 1982 and commenced at the start of the following month. Nevertheless, the assassination of Lebanese Israel-backed President Bashir Gemayel on 14th September 1982 by a member of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party set back much of the progress. After the assassination plot, the IDF rushed to occupy West Beirut and allowed  Lebanese Maronite Christian Phalangist militants to enter Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, where they engaged in the killing of hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites. These actions sparked waves of condemnation for Israel’s indirect involvement, eventually resulting in Ariel Sharon's resignation from the position of Minister of Defense. The United States vowed to restore Lebanon’s sovereignty and to facilitate a withdrawal of all foreign forces. The Secretary of State, George Shultz, helped to negotiate the peace agreement between the two sides around April 1983. The IDF pulled back its forces on 3rd September 1983, which saw an immediate eruption of fighting between Lebanese factions. In response, the Reagan administration dispatched the battleship New Jersey to Lebanon’s coast, and Congress passed a bill authorizing American troops to stay stationed in Lebanon for another eighteen months. Then, the situation turned worse again on 23rd October 1983, when Hezbollah suicide bombers orchestrated an attack on the MNF’s barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American and 58 French servicemen, as well as six Lebanese civilians. Five days after the attack, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive 111, which called for cooperation between Israel and Arab states opposed to Syria and its influence in Lebanon. On 4th December 1983, Syrians shot down a U.S.  plane and took one pilot hostage, releasing him later to presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. Then, on 1st February 1984, Ronald Reagan approved an additional deployment of Marines to Lebanon without setting a date. Shortly after this decision, Syrian militias took back control of West Beirut, and the United States announced on 7th February 1984 that it would withdraw troops from the country. 


  1. The United States Office of the Historian: "The Reagan Administration and Lebanon, 1981–1984"
  2. The Israel Defense Forces: "First Lebanon War" 
  3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel: "The Lebanon War: Operation Peace for Galilee (1982)"