Not many people have ever heard of Souk El Gharb, a sleepy Lebanese village perched on a mountain top overlooking Beirut but in 1983, this village was the scene of ferocious fighting between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and an assortment of Syrian-backed leftist and Muslim anti-government militias. For a while, the LAF, backed by the United States, was holding its own against the militias, beating back several coordinated attacks and even mounting offensives of their own.
But the LAF was doing more than just winning; it was unifying the nation splintered after many years of civil war and Palestinian occupation. The bulk of the Palestine Liberation Organization – a foreign entity that had occupied nearly half of Lebanon for 10 years – had just been expelled by the Israel Defense Forces and a multi-national force (MLF) composed of U.S. Marines, French and Italian troops took up positions in and around Beirut to promote stability in the nation’s capital. Israel’s 1982 invasion and the presence of the MLF gave Lebanon a chance to re-assert its sovereignty.
But the LAF’s good fortune was short-lived. On October 23, 1983 Hezbollah suicide bombers slammed their explosive laden trucks into the U.S. Marine and French army barracks killing 241 U.S. military personnel and 58 French servicemen. In early 1984, the MLF withdrew and the LAF quickly unraveled in the face of overwhelming firepower. Lebanon once again fell under the malign influence of Syria and later Iran, through its Shia proxy force, Hezbollah.
by Ari Lieberman