Lebanon

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Posted by r2d2 02/25/2009 @ 00:14

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French Mandate of Lebanon

Flag of Lebanon

The French Mandate of Lebanon was a League of Nations Mandate created at the end of World War I. When the Ottoman Empire was formally split up by the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, it was decided that four of its territories in the Middle East should be League of Nations mandates temporarily governed by the United Kingdom and France on behalf of the League. The British were given Palestine and Iraq, while the French were given a mandate over Syria, of which Lebanon was a part.

On September 1, 1920, General Gouraud proclaimed the establishment of State of Greater Lebanon (French: Etat du Grand Liban) with its present boundaries and with Beirut as its capital. The new territory was granted a flag, merging the French flag with the Lebanese cedar.

The name Greater Lebanon refers to the incorporation of the former Ottoman districts of Tripoli and Sidon as well as the Bekaa Valley to the existing former autonomous region of Mount Lebanon, which had been established in 1861 to protect the local Christian population.

The first Lebanese constitution was promulgated on May 23, 1926, and subsequently amended several times. Modeled after that of the French Third Republic, it provided for a bicameral parliament with Chamber of Deputies and a Senate (although the latter was eventually dropped), a President, and a Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The president was to be elected by the Chamber of Deputies for one six-year term and could not be reelected until a six-year period had elapsed; deputies were to be popularly elected along confessional lines.

A custom of selecting major political officers, as well as top ranks within the public administration, according to the proportion of the principal sects in the population was strengthened during this period. Thus, for example, the president ought to be to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shia Muslim. Theoretically, the Chamber of Deputies performed the legislative function, but in fact bills were prepared by the executive and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, which passed them virtually without exception. Under the Constitution, the French high commissioner still exercised supreme power, an arrangement that initially brought objections from the Lebanese nationalists. Nevertheless, Charles Debbas, a Greek Orthodox, was elected the first president of Lebanon three days after the adoption of the Constitution.

At the end of Debbas's first term in 1932, Bishara al-Khuri and Émile Eddé competed for the office of president, thus dividing the Chamber of Deputies. To break the deadlock, some deputies suggested Shaykh Muhammad al Jisr, who was chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Muslim leader of Tripoli, as a compromise candidate. However, French high commissioner Henri Ponsot suspended the constitution on May 9, 1932, and extended the term of Debbas for one year; in this way he prevented the election of a Muslim as president. Dissatisfied with Ponsot's conduct, the French authorities replaced him with Comte Damien de Martel, who, on January 30, 1934, appointed Habib Pacha Es-Saad as president for a one-year term (later extended for an additional year).

Émile Eddé was elected president on January 30, 1936. A year later, he partially reestablished the Constitution of 1926 and proceeded to hold elections for the Chamber of Deputies. However, the Constitution was again suspended by the French high commissioner in September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II.

Lebanon gained its independence in 1943 and the French left the country in 1945.

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History of Lebanon

Christian refugees during the 1860 strife between Druze and Maronites in Lebanon

The history of Lebanon is almost as old as the earliest evidence of humankind. Its geographic position as a crossroads linking the Mediterranean Basin with the great Asian hinterland has conferred on it a cosmopolitan character and a multicultural legacy.

At different periods of its history, Lebanon has come under the domination of foreign rulers, including Assyrians, Babylonians, Armenians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and French. Although often conquered, the Lebanese take pride in their rebellions against despotic and repressive rulers. Moreover, despite foreign domination, Lebanon's mountainous terrain has provided it with a certain protective isolation, enabling it to survive with an identity all its own.

Its proximity to the sea has ensured that throughout its history Lebanon has held an important position as a trading center. This tradition of commerce began with the Phoenicians and continued through many centuries, remaining almost unaffected by foreign rule and the worst periods of internal strife.

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. It was known that the first time coloring was discovered accidentally when a seashell gave the famous dark red that was used for dyeing cloth for kings and rich people.

The coastal plain of Lebanon is the historic home of a string of coastal trading cities of Semitic culture, which the Greeks termed Phoenicia, whose maritime culture flourished there for more than 2,000 years. Ancient ruins in Byblos, Berytus (Beirut), Sidon, Sarepta (Sarafand), and Tyre show a civilized nation, with urban centres and sophisticated arts. Present-day Lebanon was a cosmopolitan centre for many nations and cultures. Its people roamed the Mediterranean seas, skilled in trade and in art, and founded trading colonies. They were also the creators of the oldest known 24-letter alphabet, a shortening of earlier 30-letter alphabets such as Proto-Sinaitic and Ugaritic.

The ancient Lebanese set for sail and colonized overseas. Their most famous colonies were Cadiz in today’s Spain and Carthage in today’s Tunisia.

During the Middle Ages, Lebanon was heavily involved in the Crusades. Lebanon was in the main path of the First Crusade's advance on Jerusalem. Later, Frankish nobles occupied present-day Lebanon as part of the southeastern Crusader States. The southern half of present-day Lebanon formed the northern march of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; the northern half was the heartland of the County of Tripoli. Although Saladin eliminated Christian control of the Holy Land around 1190, the Crusader states in Lebanon and Syria were better defended. Muslim control of Lebanon was reestablished in the late 13th century under the Mamluk sultans of Egypt. Lebanon was later contested between Muslim rulers until the Ottoman Empire solidified authority over the eastern Mediterranean. Ottoman control was uncontested during the early modern period, but the Lebanese coast became important for its contacts and trades with Venice and other Italian city-states.

The mountainous territory of Mount Lebanon has long been a shelter for minority and persecuted groups, including its historic Maronite Christian majority along with Druze, and local Shi'a Muslims. It was an autonomous Druzes region of the Ottoman empire.

The Ottoman Turks formed an empire starting from the 14th century which came to encompass the Balkans, Middle east and North Africa. The Ottoman sultan, Selim I (1516-20), after defeating the Persians, conquered the Mamluks. His troops, invading Syria, destroyed Mamluk resistance in 1516 at Marj Dabaq, north of Aleppo.

During the conflict between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the amirs of Lebanon linked their fate to that of Ghazali, governor (pasha) of Damascus. He won the confidence of the Ottomans by fighting on their side at Marj Dabaq and, apparently pleased with the behavior of the Lebanese amirs, introduced them to Salim I when he entered Damascus. Salim I, moved by the eloquence of the Lebanese ruler Amir Fakhr ad Din I (1516-44), decided to grant the Lebanese amirs a semiautonomous status. The Ottomans, through two great Druze feudal families, the Maans and the Shihabs, ruled Lebanon until the middle of the nineteenth century. It was during Ottoman rule that the term Greater Syria was coined to designate the approximate area included in present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.

The Maan family, under orders from the governor of Damascus, came to Lebanon in 1120 won against the invading Crusaders. They settled on the southwestern slopes of the Lebanon Mountains and soon adopted the Druze religion. Their authority began to rise with Fakhr ad-Din I, who was permitted by Ottoman authorities to organize his own army, and reached its peak with Fakhr ad-Din II (1570-1635).

Although Fakhr ad-Din II's aspirations toward complete independence for Lebanon ended tragically, he greatly enhanced Lebanon's military and economic development. Noted for religious tolerance , Fakhr ad-Din attempted to merge the country's different religious groups into one Lebanese community. In an effort to attain complete independence for Lebanon, he concluded a secret agreement with Ferdinand I, duke of Tuscany in Italy, the two parties pledging to support each other against the Ottomans. Informed of this agreement, the Ottoman ruler in Constantinople reacted violently and ordered Ahmad al Hafiz, governor of Damascus, to attack Fakhr ad Din. Realizing his inability to cope with the regular army of Al Hafiz, the Lebanese ruler went to Tuscany in exile in 1613. He returned to Lebanon in 1618, after his good friend Muhammad Pasha became governor of Damascus.

Following his return from Tuscany, Fakhr ad-Din II, realizing the need for a strong and disciplined armed force, channeled his financial resources into building a regular army. This army proved itself in 1623, when Mustafa Pasha, the new governor of Damascus, underestimating the capabilities of the Lebanese army, engaged it in battle and was decisively defeated at Anjar in the Biqa Valley. Impressed by the victory of the Lebanese ruler, the sultan of Constantinople gave him the title of Sultan al Barr (Sultan of Land).

In addition to building up the army, Fakhr ad-Din II, who became acquainted with Italian culture during his stay in Tuscany, initiated measures to modernize the country. After forming close ties with the dukes of Tuscany and Florence and establishing diplomatic relations with them, he brought in architects, irrigation engineers, and agricultural experts from Italy in an effort to promote prosperity in the country. He also strengthened Lebanon's strategic position by expanding its territory, building forts as far away as Palmyra in Syria, and gaining control of Palestine. Finally, the Ottoman sultan Murad IV of Constantinople, wanting to thwart Lebanon's progress toward complete independence, ordered Kutshuk, then governor of Damascus, to attack the Lebanese ruler. This time Fakhr ad Din was defeated, and he was executed in Constantinople in 1635. No significant Maan rulers succeeded Fakhr ad Din II.

The Shihabs succeeded the Maans in 1697. They originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon. The most prominent among them was Bashir Shihab II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad Din II. His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometers south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Al Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Shihab leader; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir's principal opponent in the area.

During the nineteenth century the town of Beirut became the most important port of the region supplanting Acre further to the south. This was mostly because Mount Lebanon became a centre of silk production for export to Europe. This industry made the region wealthy, but also dependent on links to Europe. Since most of the silk went to Marseille the French began to have a great impact in the region.

In 1788 Bashir Shihab II (sometimes spelled Bachir in French sources) would rise to become the Emir. Born into poverty, he was elected emir upon the abdication of his predecessor, and would rule under Ottoman suzerainty, being appointed wali or governor of Mt Lebanon, the Biqa valley and Jabal Amil. Together this is about two thirds of modern day Lebanon. He would reform taxes and attempt to break the feudal system, in order to undercut rivals, the most important of which was also named Bashir: Bashir Jumblatt, whose wealth and feudal backers equaled or exceeded Bashir II – and who had increasing support in the Druze community. In 1822 the Ottoman wali of Damascus went to war with Acre, which was allied with Muhammad Ali, the pasha of Egypt. As part of this conflict one of the most remembered massacres of Maronite Christians by Druze forces occurred, forces that were aligned with the wali of Damascus. Jumblatt represented the increasingly disaffected Druze, who were both shut out from official power and angered at the growing ties with the Maronites by Bashir II, who was himself a Maronite Christian.

Bashir II was overthrown as wali when he backed Acre, and fled to Egypt, later to return and organize an army. Jumblatt gathered the Druze factions together, and the war became sectarian in character: the Maronites backing Bashir II, the Druze backing Bashir Jumblatt. Jumblatt declared a rebellion, and between 1821 and 1825 there were massacres and battles, with the Maronites attempting to gain control of the Mt. Lebanon district, and the Druze gaining control over the Biqa valley. In 1825 Bashir II defeated his rival and killed him after the battle of al Simqaniya. Bashir II was not a forgiving man and repressed the Druze, particularly in and around Beirut.

Bashir II, who had come to power through local politics and nearly fallen from power because of his increasing detachment from them, reached out for allies, allies who looked on the entire area as “the Orient” and who could provide trade, weapons and money, without requiring fealty and without, it seemed, being drawn into endless internal squabbles. He disarmed the Druze and allied with France, governing in the name of the Egyptian Pasha Muhammad Ali, who entered Lebanon and formally took overlordship in 1832. For the remaining 8 years, the sectarian and feudal rifts of the 1821–1825 conflict were heightened by the increasing economic isolation of the Druze, and the increasing wealth of the Maronites.

The discontent grew to open rebellion, fed by both Ottoman and British money and support: Bashir II fled, the Ottoman empire reasserted control and Mehmed Hüsrev Pasha, whose sole term as Grand Vizier ran from 1839 to 1841, appointed another member of the Shihab family, who styled himself Bashir III. Bashir III, coming on the heels of a man who by guile, force and diplomacy had dominated Mt Lebanon and the Biqa for 52 years, did not last long. In 1841 conflicts between the impoverished Druze and the Maronite Christians exploded: There was a massacre of Christians by the Druze at Deir al Qamar, and the fleeing survivors were slaughtered by Ottoman regulars. The Ottomans attempted to create peace by dividing Mt Lebanon into a Christian district and a Druze district, but this would merely create geographic powerbases for the warring parties, and it plunged the region back into civil conflict which included not only the sectarian warfare but a Maronite revolt against the Feudal class, which ended in 1858 with the overthrow of the old feudal system of taxes and levies. The situation was unstable: the Maronites lived in the large towns, but these were often surrounded by Druze villages living as perioikoi.

In 1860, this would boil back into full scale sectarian war, when the Maronites began openly opposing the power of the Ottoman Empire. The Druze took advantage of this and began burning Maronite villages. The long siege of Deir al Qamar found a Maronite garrison holding out against Druze forces backed by Ottoman soldiers; the area in every direction was despoiled by the besiegers. In July 1860, with European intervention threatening, the Turkish government tried to quiet the strife, but Napoleon III of France sent 7,000 troops to Beirut and helped impose a partition: The Druze control of the territory was recognized as the fact on the ground, and the Maronites were forced into an enclave, arrangements ratified by the concert of Europe in 1861. They were confined to a mountainous district, cut off from both the Biqa and Beirut, and faced with the prospect of ever growing poverty. Resentments and fears would brood, ones which would resurface in the coming decades.

It is estimated that more than 4000 Christians were killed in the conflict, with another 4000 dying of destitution. Furthermore, more than 100 000 were made homeless (Salibi, K. 1965 The Modern History of Lebanon).

Another destabilizing factor was France's support for the Maronite Christians against the Druze which in turn led the British to back the Druze, exacerbating religious and economic tensions between the two communities. In 1859–60 violence erupted between the Maronites and the Druze. The Druze had grown increasingly resentful of the favoring of the Maronites by Bashir II, and were backed by the Ottoman Empire and the wali of Damascus in an attempt to gain greater control over Lebanon; the Maronites were backed by the French, out of both economic and political expediency. The Druze began a military campaign that included the burning of villages and massacres, while Maronite irregulars retaliated with attacks of their own. However, the Maronites were gradually pushed into a few strongholds and were on the verge of military defeat when the Congress of Europe intervened and established a commission to determine the outcome. The French forces deployed there were then used to enforce the final decision. The French accepted the Druze as having established control and the Maronites were reduced to a semi-autonomous region around Mt Lebanon, without even direct control over Beirut itself. The Province of Lebanon that would be controlled by the Maronites, but the entire area was placed under direct rule of the governor of Damascus, and carefully watched by the Ottoman Empire.

The remainder of the 19th century saw a relative period of stability, as Islamic, Druze and Maronite groups focused on economic and cultural development which saw the founding of the American University of Beirut and a flowering of literary and political activity associated with the attempts to liberalize the Ottoman Empire. Late in the century there was a short Druze uprising over the extremely harsh government and high taxation rates, but there was far less of the violence that had scalded the area earlier in the century.

In the approach to World War I, Beirut became a center of various reforming movements, and would send delegates to the Arab Syrian conference and Franco-Syrian conference held in Paris. There was a complex array of solutions, from pan-Arab nationalism, to separatism for Beirut, and several status quo movements that sought stability and reform within the context of Ottoman government. The Young Turk revolution brought these movements to the front, hoping that the reform of Ottoman Empire would lead to broader reforms. The outbreak of hostilities changed this, as Lebanon was to feel the weight of the conflict in the Middle East more heavily than most other areas.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the League of Nations mandated the five provinces that make up present-day Lebanon to the direct control of France. Initially the division of the Arab speaking areas of the Ottoman empire were to be divided by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, however, the final disposition was at the San Remo conference of 1920, whose determinations on the mandates, their boundaries, purposes and organization was ratified by the League in 1921 and put into effect in 1922.

According to the agreements reached at San Remo, France also had its control over what was termed Syria recognised, the French having taken Damascus in 1920. However Syria was scheduled to be an independent country, a so called Class A Mandate, and the rights granted to France were far less than over other mandate territories. A Class B mandate granted the right to administer the territories. The entire mandate area was termed "Syria" at the time, including the administrative districts along the Mediterranean coast. Wanting to maximize the area under its direct control, contain an Arab Syria centered on Damascus, and insure a defensible border, France established the Lebanon-Syrian border to the "Anti-Lebanon" mountains, on the far side of the Beqaa Valley, territory which had belonged to the province of Damascus for hundreds of years, and was far more attached to Damascus than Beirut by culture and influence. This doubled the territory under the control of Beirut, at the expense of what would become the state of Syria.

Consequently, the demographics of Lebanon were profoundly altered, as the territory added contained people who were predominantly Muslim or Druze: Lebanese Christians, of which the Maronites were the largest subgrouping, now constituted barely more than 50% of the population, while Sunni Muslims in Lebanon saw their numbers increase eightfold, Shi'ite Muslims fourfold. Modern Lebanon's constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of power between the various religious groups, but France designed it to guarantee the political dominance of its Christian allies. The president was required to be a Christian (in practice, a Maronite), the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. On the basis of the 1932 census, parliament seats were divided according to a 6 to 5 Christian/Muslim ratio. The constitution gave the president veto power over any legislation approved by parliament, virtually ensuring that the 6:5 ratio would not be revised in the event that the population distribution changed. By 1960, Muslims were thought to constitute a majority of the population, which contributed to Muslim unrest regarding the political system.

Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany. General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of both nations. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. Britain, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon. The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War Two. The last French troops withdrew in 1946.

Lebanon's history from independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a freely trading regional center for finance and trade. Lebanon was also a major center for the production of opium in the Mideast. Beirut became a mecca for institutions of international commerce and finance, as well as wealthy tourists, and enjoyed a reputation as the "Paris of the Middle East" until the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Lebanon became home to more than 110,000 Palestinian refugees after being expelled from the newly formed Israel and Jordan, where King Hussein saw them as a threat to the stability of his kingdom. More Palestinians found their way to Lebanon than to any other Arab country.

In 1958, during the last months of President Camille Chamoun's term, an insurrection broke out, and 5,000 United States Marines were briefly dispatched to the capital Beirut on July 15 in response to an appeal by the government. After the crisis, a new government was formed, led by the popular former general Fuad Chehab.

During the 1960s, Lebanon enjoyed a period of relative calm, with Beirut-focused tourism and banking sector-driven prosperity. Lebanon reached the peak of its economic success in the mid-1960’s – the country was seen as a bastion of economic strength by the oil-rich Persian Gulf Arab states, whose funds made Lebanon one of the world’s fastest growing economies and fashionable Beirut seen as the “Paris of the East”. This period of economic stability and prosperity was brought to an abrupt halt with the collapse of Yousef Beidas' Intra Bank, the country's largest bank and financial backbone, in 1966.

Additional Palestinian refugees arrived after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Following their defeat in the Jordanian civil war, thousands of Palestinian militiamen regrouped in Lebanon, led by Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, with the intention of replicating the modus operandi of attacking Israel from a politically and militarily weak neighbour. Starting in 1968, Palestinian militants of various affiliations began to use southern Lebanon as a launching pad for attacks on Israel. Two of these attacks led to a watershed event in Lebanon's inchoate civil war. In July 1968, a faction of George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked an Israeli El Al civilian plane en route to Algiers; in December, Habash himself oversaw an attack on an El Al plane in Athens, resulting in two deaths.

Later that month, Israeli agents flew into Beirut's international airport and destroyed 13 civilian airliners belonging to various Arab carriers. Israel defended its actions by informing the Lebanese government that it was responsible for encouraging the PFLP. The retaliation, which was intended to encourage a Lebanese government crackdown on Palestinian militants, instead polarized Lebanese society on the Palestinian question, deepening the divide between pro- and anti-Palestinian factions, with the Muslims leading the former grouping and Maronites primarily constituting the latter. This dispute reflected increasing tensions between Christian and Muslim communities over the distribution of political power, and would ultimately foment the outbreak of civil war in 1975.

For its part, the PLO used its new privileges to establish an effective "mini-state" in southern Lebanon, and to ramp up its attacks on settlements in northern Israel. Compounding matters, Lebanon received an influx of armed Palestinian militants, including Arafat and his Fatah movement, fleeing the 1970 Jordanian crackdown. The PLO's "vicious terrorist attacks in Israel" (Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, p. 184) dating from this period were countered by Israeli bombing raids in southern Lebanon, where "150 or more towns and villages...have been repeatedly savaged by the Israeli armed forces since 1968," of which the village of Khiyam is probably the best-known example (Ibid., p. 191, quoting Guardian correspondent Irene Beeson). Palestinian terror claimed 106 lives in northern Israel from 1967, according to official IDF statistics, while the Lebanese army had recorded "1.4 Israeli violations of Lebanese territory per day from 1968–74" (Ibid., p. 74, citing Ha'aretz, June 22, 1982, and p. 191, citing The New York Times, October 2, 1977.) Where Lebanon had no conflict with Israel during the period 1949–1968, after 1968 Lebanon's southern border began to experience an escalating cycle of attack and retaliation, leading to the chaos of the civil war, foreign invasions and international intervention. The consequences of the PLO's arrival in Lebanon continue to this day.

The Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) had its origin in the conflicts and political compromises of Lebanon's colonial period and was exacerbated by the nation's changing demographic trends, inter-religious strife, and proximity to Syria, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Israel. By 1975, Palestinians in Lebanon numbered more than 300,000.

Events and political movements that contributed to Lebanon's violent implosion include, among others, the departure of European colonial powers, the emergence of Arab Nationalism, Arab Socialism in the context of the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ba'athism, the Iranian Revolution, Palestinian militants, Black September in Jordan, Islamic fundamentalism, and the Iran–Iraq War.

In all, it is estimated that more than 100,000 were killed, and another 100,000 handicapped by injuries, during Lebanon's 16-year war. Up to one-fifth of the pre-war resident population, or about 900,000 people, were displaced from their homes, of whom perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently. Thousands of people lost limbs during many stages of planting of land-mines.

The War can be divided broadly into several periods: The initial outbreak in the mid-1970s, the Syrian and then Israeli intervention of the late 1970s, escalation of the PLO-Israeli conflict in the early 1980s, the 1982 Israeli invasion, a brief period of multinational involvement, and finally resolution which took the form of Syrian occupation.

Constitutionally guaranteed Christian control of the government had come under increasing fire from Muslims and leftists, leading them to join forces as the National Movement in 1969, which called for the taking of a new census and the subsequent drafting of a new governmental structure that would reflect the census results. Political tension became military conflict, with full-scale civil war in April 1975. The Maronite leadership called for Syrian intervention in 1976, leading to the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, and an Arab summit in 1976 was called to stop the crisis.

In the south, military exchanges between Israel and the PLO led Israel to support Saad Haddad's South Lebanon Army (SLA) in an effort to establish a security belt along Israel's northern border, an effort which intensified in 1977 with the election of new Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. Israel invaded Lebanon in response to Fatah attacks in Israel in March 1978, occupying most of the area south of the Litani River, and resulting in the evacuation of at least 100,000 Lebanese (Smith, op. cit., 356), as well as approximately 2,000 deaths (Newsweek, March 27, 1978; Time, April 3, 1978; cited in Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, p. 485 n115).

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with maintaining peace. Israeli forces withdrew later in 1978, leaving an SLA-controlled border strip as a protective buffer against PLO cross-border attacks.

Concurrently, tension between Syria and Phalange increased Israeli support for the Maronite group and led to direct Israeli-Syrian exchanges in April 1981, leading to American diplomatic intervention. Philip Habib was dispatched to the region to head off further escalation, which he successfully did via an agreement concluded in May.

Intra-Palestinian fighting and PLO-Israeli conflict continued, and July 24, 1981, Habib brokered a cease-fire agreement with the PLO and Israel: the two sides agreed to cease hostilities in Lebanon proper and along the Israeli border with Lebanon.

After continued PLO-Israeli exchanges, Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6 in Operation Peace for Galilee. By June 15, Israeli units were entrenched outside Beirut and Yassir Arafat attempted through negotiations to evacuate the PLO. It is commonly estimated that during the entire campaign, approximately 20,000 were killed on all sides, including many civilians. A multinational force composed of U.S. Marines, French, Italian units arrived to ensure the departure of the PLO and protect defenseless civilians. Nearly 15,000 Palestinian militants were evacuated by September 1.

President Bashir Gemayel agreed to send troops from his Phalange militia into camps to clear out 2,000 PLO fighters. On September 14, Gemayel was assassinated. Phalangists entered the camps on September 16 at 6:00 PM and remained until the morning of September 19, massacring 700–800 Palestinians, according to official Israeli statistics, "none apparently members of any PLO unit" (Smith, op. cit., 380-1). These are known as the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Amine Gemayel succeeded his brother and focused on securing the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. A May 17, 1983, agreement among Lebanon, Israel, and the United States arranged an Israeli withdrawal conditional on the departure of Syrian troops. Syria opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress.

In 1983 the IDF withdrew southward, and would remain only in the "security zone" until the year 2000.

Intense attacks against U.S. and Western interests, including two truck bombings of the US Embassy in 1983 and 1984 and the landmark attacks on the U.S. Marine and French parachute regiment barracks on October 23, 1983, led to an American withdrawal, while the virtual collapse of the Lebanese Army in February 1984 was a major blow to the government. On March 5 the Lebanese Government canceled the May 17 agreement and the Marines departed a few weeks later.

Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982. Although Gemayel did not cooperate with the Israelis publicly, his long history of tactical collaboration with Israel counted against him in the eyes of many Lebanese, especially Muslims. Although the only announced candidate for the presidency of the republic, the National Assembly elected him by the second narrowest margin in Lebanese history (57 votes out of 92) on August 23, 1982; most Muslim members of the Assembly boycotted the vote. Nine days before he was due to take office, Gemayel was assassinated along with twenty-five others in an explosion at the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafieh on September 14, 1982. Bachir Gemayel was succeeded as president by his older brother Amine Gemayel, who served from 1982 to 1988. Rather different in temperament, Amine Gemayel was widely regarded as lacking the charisma and decisiveness of his brother, and many of the latter's followers were dissatisfied.

Habib Tanious Shartouni, a member of the pro-Damascus Syrian Social Nationalist Party, confessed to the crime, was apprehended and handed to Amine Gemayel. He escaped but was captured again a few hours later and handed over to Lebanon's justice system. He was imprisoned in the Roumieh prison. He was released from Roumieh in October 1990 in the post-war amnesty.

Between 1985 and 1989, heavy fighting took place in the "War of the Camps." The Shi'a Muslim Amal militia sought to rout the Palestinians from Lebanese strongholds.

Combat returned to Beirut in 1987, with Palestinians, leftists, and Druze fighters allied against Amal, eventually drawing further Syrian intervention. Violent confrontation flared up again in Beirut in 1988 between Amal and Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, on the political front, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on June 1, 1987. President Gemayel's term of office expired in September 1988. Before stepping down, he appointed another Maronite Christian, Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, as was his right under the Lebanese constitution of 1943. This action was highly controversial.

Muslim groups rejected the move and pledged support to Selim al-Hoss, a Sunni who had succeeded Karami. Lebanon was thus divided between a Christian government in East Beirut and a Muslim government in West Beirut, with no President.

In February 1989, General Aoun launched the "Harb El Tahrir", a war against the Syrian Armed Forces in Lebanon. He did not receive aid or support from any other Lebanese group or militia, except the Lebanese Forces (who were to later side with the Syrian regime against Aoun). In October 1990, the Syrian air force, backed by the US and pro-Syrian Lebanese groups (including Hariri, Joumblatt, Berri, Geagea and Lahoud) attacked the Presidential Palace at B'abda and forced Aoun to take refuge in the French embassy in Beirut and later go into exile in Paris. October 13, 1990 is regarded as the date the civil war ended, and Syria is widely recognized as playing a critical role in its end.

The Taif Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the war, and was ratified on November 4. President Rene Mouawad was elected the following day, but was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut on November 22 as his motorcade returned from Lebanese independence day ceremonies. He was succeeded by Elias Hrawi, who remained in office until 1998.

In August 1990, the parliament and the new president agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Taif. The National Assembly expanded to 128 seats and was divided equally between Christians and Muslims. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned most political crimes prior to its enactment, excepting crimes perpetrated against foreign diplomats or certain crimes referred by the cabinet to the Higher Judicial Council.

In May 1991, the militias (with the important exception of Hizballah) were dissolved, and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild themselves as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution.

Some violence still occurred. In late December 1991 a car bomb (estimated to carry 100 kg (220 pounds) of TNT) exploded in the Muslim neighborhood of Basta. At least thirty people were killed, and 120 wounded, including former Prime Minister Shafik Wazzan, who was riding in a bulletproof car. It was the deadliest car bombing in Lebanon since June 18, 1985, when an explosion in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli killed sixty people and wounded 110.

The last of the Westerners kidnapped by Hezbollah during the mid-1980s were released in May 1992.

Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Only Hezbollah retained its weapons, and was supported by Lebanon's parliament in doing so, because it was defending Lebanon against the ongoing Israeli occupation of almost one-quarter of the country. That occupation finally ended in 2000.

Postwar social and political instability, fueled by economic uncertainty and the collapse of the Lebanese currency, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami, also in May 1992, after less than 2 years in office. He was replaced by former Prime Minister Rashid al Sulh, who was widely viewed as a caretaker to oversee Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in 20 years.

By early November 1992, a new parliament had been elected, and Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had formed a cabinet, retaining for himself the finance portfolio. The formation of a government headed by a successful billionaire businessman was widely seen as a sign that Lebanon would make a priority of rebuilding the country and reviving the economy. Solidere, a private real estate company set up to rebuild downtown Beirut, was a symbol of Hariri's strategy to link economic recovery to private sector investment. After the election of then-commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Émile Lahoud as President in 1998 following Hrawi's extended term as President, Salim al-Hoss again served as Prime Minister. Hariri returned to office as Prime Minister in November 2000. Although problems with basic infrastructure and government services persist, and Lebanon is now highly indebted, much of the civil war damage has been repaired throughout the country, and many foreign investors and tourists have returned.

If Lebanon has in part recovered over the past decade from the catastrophic damage to infrastructure of its long civil war, the social and political divisions that gave rise to and sustained that conflict remain largely unresolved. Parliamentary and more recently municipal elections have been held with fewer irregularities and more popular participation than in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, and Lebanese civil society generally enjoys significantly more freedoms than elsewhere in the Arab world. However, there are continuing sectarian tensions and unease about Syrian and other external influences.

In the late 1990s, the government took action against Sunni Muslim extremists in the north who had attacked its soldiers, and it continues to move against groups such as Asbat al-Ansar, which has been accused of being partnered with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. On January 24, 2002, Elie Hobeika, another former Lebanese Forces figure associated with the Sabra and Shatilla massacres who later served in three cabinets and the parliament, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut.

During Lebanon's civil war, Syria's troop deployment in Lebanon was legitimized by the Lebanese Parliament in the Taif Agreement, supported by the Arab League, and is given a major share of the credit for finally bringing the civil war to an end in October 1990. In the ensuing fifteen years, Damascus and Beirut justified Syria's continued military presence in Lebanon by citing the continued weakness of a Lebanese armed forces faced with both internal and external security threats, and the agreement with the Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the Taif Agreement. Under Taif, the Hezbollah militia was eventually to be dismantled, and the LAF allowed to deploy along the border with Israel. Lebanon was called on to deploy along its southern border by UN Security Council Resolution 1391, urged to do so by UN Resolution UN Security Council Resolution 1496, and deployment was demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1559. The Syrian military and intelligence presence in Lebanon was criticised by some on Lebanon's right-wing inside and outside of the country, others believed it helped to prevent renewed civil war and discourage Israeli aggression, and others believed its presence and influence was helpful for Lebanese stability and peace but should be scaled back. Major powers United States and France rejected Syrian reasoning that they were in Lebanon by the consent of the Lebanese government. They insist that the latter had been co-opted and that in fact Lebanon's Government was a Syrian puppet.

Up to 2005, 14-15,000 Syrian troops (down from 35,000) remained in position in many areas of Lebanon, although the Taif called for an agreement between the Syrian and Lebanese Governments by September 1992 on their redeployment to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Syria's refusal to exit Lebanon following Israel's 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon first raised criticism among the Lebanese Maronite Christians and Druze, who were later joined by many of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims.) Lebanon's Shiites, on the other hand, have long supported the Syrian presence, as has the Hezbollah militia group and political party. The U.S. began applying pressure on Syria to end its occupation and cease interfering with internal Lebanese matters. In 2004, many believe Syria pressured Lebanese MPs to back a constitutional amendment to revise term limitations and allow Lebanon's two term pro-Syrian president Émile Lahoud to run for a third time. France, Germany and the United Kingdom, along with many Lebanese politicians joined the U.S. in denouncing alleged Syria's interference. On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, authored by France and the U.S. in an uncommon show of cooperation. The resolution called "upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias".

In Resolution 425, the UN had set a goal of assisting the Lebanese government in a "return of its effective authority in the area", which would require an official Lebanese army presence there. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 requires the dismantling of the Hezbollah militia. Yet, Hezbollah remains deployed along the Blue Line . Both Hezbollah and Israel have violated the Blue Line more than once, according to the UN . The most common pattern of violence have been border incursions by the Hezbollah into the Shebaa Farms area, and then Israeli air strikes into southern Lebanon. The UN Secretary-General has urged "all governments that have influence on Hezbollah to deter it from any further actions which could increase the tension in the area" . Staffan de Misura, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon stated that he was "deeply concerned that air violations by Israel across the Blue Line during altercations with Hezbollah are continuing to take place" , calling "upon the Israeli authorities to cease such violations and to fully respect the Blue Line" . In 2001 de Misura similarly expressed his concern to Lebanon's prime minister for allowing Hezbollah to violate the Blue Line, saying it was a "clear infringement" of UN Resolution 425, under which the UN certified Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon as complete . On January 28, 2005, UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it. On January 23, 2006 The UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with those efforts. In a statement read out by its January President, Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon.

On September 3, 2004, the National Assembly voted 96–29 to amend the constitution to allow the pro-Syrian president, Émile Lahoud, three more years in office by extending a statute of limitations to nine years. Many regarded this as a second time Syria had pressured Lebanon's Parliament to amend the constitution in a way that favored Lahoud (the first allowing for his election in 1998 immediately after he had resigned as commander-in-chief of the LAF.) Three cabinet ministers were absent from the vote and later resigned. The USA charged that Syria exercised pressure against the National Assembly to amend the constitution, and many of the Lebanese rejected it, saying that it was considered as contradictive to the constitution and its principles. Including these is the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir – the most eminent religious figure for Maronites – and the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

To the surprise of many, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who had vehemently opposed this amendment, appeared to have finally accepted it, and so did most of his party. However, he ended up resigning in protest against the amendment. He was assassinated soon afterwards (see below), triggering the Cedar Revolution. This amendment comes in discordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for a new presidential election in Lebanon.

On October 1 2004, one of the main dissenting voices to Émile Lahoud's term extension, the newly resigned Druze ex-minister Marwan Hamadeh was the target of a car bomb attack as his vehicle slowed to enter his Beirut home. Mr. Hamadeh and his bodyguard were wounded and his driver killed in the attack. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appealed for calm, but said the car bomb was a clear message for the opposition. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his serious concern over the attack .

On October 7, 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that Syria had failed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. Mr. Annan concluded his report saying that "It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history." .

On October 19, 2004, following the UN Secretary General's report, the UN Security Council voted unanimously (meaning that it received the backing of Algeria, the only Arab member of the Security Council) to put out a statement calling on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon, in accordance with Resolution 1559.

On October 20, 2004, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri resigned; the next day former Prime Minister and loyal supporter of Syria Omar Karami was appointed Prime Minister . On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated in a car-bomb attack which killed 16 and wounded 100. This was a second car-bomb assassination of a Lebanese Parliament member that opposed Syria in a four month period. On February 21 2005, tens of thousand Lebanese protestors held a rally at the site of the assassination calling for the withdrawal of Syria's peacekeeping forces and blaming Syria and the pro-Syrian president Lahoud for the murder.

Hariri's murder triggered increased international pressure on Syria. In a joint statement U.S. President Bush and French president Chirac condemned the killing and called for full implementation of UNSCR 1559. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he was sending a team led by Ireland's deputy police commissioner, Peter Fitzgerald, to investigate the assassination . And while Arab League head Amr Moussa declared that Syrian president Assad promised him a phased withdrawal over a two year period, the Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said Mr Moussa had misunderstood the Syrian leader. Mr Dakhlallah said that Syria will merely move its troops to eastern Lebanon.

Local Lebanese pressure mounted as well. As daily protests against the Syrian occupation grew to 25,000, a series of dramatic events occurred. Massive protests such as these have been quite uncommon in the Arab world, and while in the 90s most anti-Syrian demonstrators were predominantly Christian, the new demonstrations were Christian and Sunni. On February 28 the government of pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned, calling for a new election to take place. Mr Karami said in his announcement: "I am keen the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country." The tens of thousands gathered at Beirut's Martyrs' Square cheered the announcement, then chanted "Karami has fallen, your turn will come, Lahoud, and yours, Bashar". Opposition MPs were also not satisfied with Karami's resignation, and kept pressing for full Syrian withdrawal. Former minister and MP Marwan Hamadeh, who survived a similar car bomb attack on October 1, 2004, said "I accuse this government of incitement, negligence and shortcomings at the least, and of covering up its planning at the most... if not executing". Two days later Syrian leader Bashar Assad announced that his troops will leave Lebanon completely "in the next few months". Responding to the announcement, opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said that he wanted to hear more specifics from Damascus about any withdrawal: "It's a nice gesture but 'next few months' is quite vague – we need a clear-cut timetable".

On March 3 Russia, Syria's Cold War ally, and Germany had joined those calling for Syria to comply with UNSCR 1559. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said: "Lebanon should be given an opportunity for sovereignty and development and this can only be achieved by complying with Security Council resolutions that stipulate immediate Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.". The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated that "Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, but we all have to make sure that this withdrawal does not violate the very fragile balance which we still have in Lebanon, which is a very difficult country ethnically".

On March 5 Syrian leader Assad declared in a televised speech that Syria would withdraw its forces to the Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon, and then to the border between Syria and Lebanon. Assad did not provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon – 14,000 soldiers and intelligence agents. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for a "massive popular gathering" on Tuesday against UN Resolution 1559 saying "The resistance will not give up its arms ... because Lebanon needs the resistance to defend it", and added "all the articles of UN resolution give free services to the Israeli enemy who should have been made accountable for his crimes and now finds that he is being rewarded for his crimes and achieves all its demands". In opposition to Nasrallah's call, Monday, March 7 saw at least 70,000 people – with some estimates putting the number at twice as high – gathered at central Martyrs' Square to demand that Syria leave completely.

The following day a pro-Syrian demonstration set a new record when Hezbollah amassed 400–500 thousand protestors at Riad Solh square in Beirut, most of them bussed in from the heavily Shi'ite south Lebanon and eastern Beka'a valley. The show of power demonstrated Hezbollah's influence, wealth and organization as the sole Lebanese party allowed to hold a militia by Syria. In his speech Nasrallah blasted UN Security-Council Resolution 1559, which calls for Hezbollah's militia to be disbanded, as foreign intervention. Nasrallah also reiterated his earlier calls for the destruction of Israel saying "To this enemy we say again: There is no place for you here and there is no life for you among us. Death to Israel!". Though Hezbollah organized a very successful rally, opposition leaders were quick to point out that Hezbollah had active support from Lebanon's government and Syria. While the pro-democracy rallies had to deal with road blocks forcing protestors to either turn back or march long distances to Martyr's Square, Hezbollah was able to bus people directly to Riad Solh square. Dory Chamoun, an opposition leader, pointed out that "the difference is that in our demonstrations, people arrive voluntarily and on foot, not in buses". Another opposition member said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out and some reports said Syria had bused in people from across the border. But on a mountain road leading to Beirut, only one bus with a Syrian license plate was spotted in a convoy of pro-Syrian supporters heading to the capital and Hezbollah officials denied the charges. Opposition MP Akram Chehayeb said "That is where the difference between us and them lies: They asked these people to come and they brought them here, whereas the opposition's supporters come here on their own. Our protests are spontaneous. We have a cause. What is theirs?".

After weeks of international and local pressure it appeared that a UN showdown was on its way. A meeting between UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen and Syrian leader Assad was scheduled for March 12. Roed-Larsen preceded the meeting by consulting with Egypt, Jordan, Arab League chief Amr Mousa, and Lebanon. Roed-Larsen was expected to deliver an ultimatum to Assad over compliance with UNSCR 1559. This included compliance with honoring Lebanon's sovereignty; not undermining its upcoming legislative elections; providing a complete timeline for a full pullout of troops. A phased withdrawal, or "sequencing" would be accepted, but must be expeditious; providing a timeline for the withdrawal of some 5,000 Syrian intelligence agents in Lebanon; Finally, disarming and dismantling foreign and domestic Syrian-supported militias in Lebanon. Supporting Roed-Larsen's mission, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after talks with Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt, said Russia was keeping a close eye on Syrian troop movements and that Syria's intelligence services should also pull out.

One month after Hariri's murder, an enormous anti-Syrian rally gathered at Martyr's Square in Beirut. Multiple news agencies estimated the crowd at between 800,000 and 1 million – a show of force for the Sunni, Christian and Druze communities. The rally was double the size of the mostly Shi'ite pro-Syrian one organized by Hezbollah the previous week. When Hariri's sister took a pro-Syrian line saying that Lebanon should "stand by Syria until its land is liberated and it regains its sovereignty on the occupied Golan Heights" the crowd jeered her. This sentiment was prevalent among the rally participants who opposed Hezbollah's refusal to disarm based on the claim that Lebanese and Syrian interests are linked.

Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, a Syrian ally in the Lebanese security forces, resigned on Monday, April 25, just a day before the final Syrian troops pulled out of Lebanon.

UN forces led by Senegalese Brig. Gen. Mouhamadou Kandji and guided by Lebanese Brig. Gen. Imad Anka were sent to Lebanon to verify the military withdrawal which was mandated by Security Council resolution 1559.

Following the Syrian withdrawal a series of assassinations of Lebanese politicians and journalists with the anti-Syrian camp had begun. Over nine bombings have occurred to date and have triggered condemnations from the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General.

Parliament voted for the release of the former Lebanese Forces warlord Samir Geagea in the first session since election were held in the spring of 2005. Geagea was the only leader during the civil war to be charged with crimes related to that conflict. With the return of Michel Aoun, the climate was right to try to heal wounds to help unite the country after former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005. Geagea was released on July 26, 2005 and left immediately for an undisclosed European nation to undergo medical examinations and convalesce.

Eight months after Syria withdrew from Lebanon under intense domestic and international outrage over the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri the UN investigation has yet to be completed. While UN investigator Detlev Mehlis has pointed the finger at Syria's intelligence apparatus in Lebanon he has yet to be allowed full access to Syrian officials who are suspected by the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) as being behind the assassination. In its latest report UNIIIC said it had "credible information" that Syrian officials had arrested and threatened close relatives of a witness who recanted testimony he had previously given the Commission, and that two Syrian suspects it questioned indicated that all Syrian intelligence documents on Lebanon had been burned. A campaign of bomb attacks against politicians, journalists and even civilian neighborhoods associated with the anti-Syrian camp has provoked much negative attention for Syria in the UN and elsewhere. On December 15, 2005 the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UNIIIC.

On December 28, 2005 Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar said it had received a statement signed by "The Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom in al-Sham," the group that claimed responsibility for the death of its former editor Gibran Tueni with a car bomb on December 12. The statement said outgoing UNIIIC chairman Mehlis was lucky to escape death and threatened any new chairman with assassination if he too implicated Syria.

On December 30, 2005 Syria's former Vice-President, Abdul Halim Khaddam, said that "Hariri received many threats" from Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad. Prior to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon Mr Khaddam was in charge of Syria's Lebanon policy and mainly responsible for Syria's abuse of Lebanon's resources. Many believe that Khaddam seized the opportunity to clear his history of corruption and blackmail.

During the Cedar Revolution Hezbollah organized a series of pro-Syrian rallies. Hezbollah became a part of the Lebanese government following the 2005 elections but is at a crossroads regarding UNSCR 1559's call for its militia to be dismantled. On November 21, 2005 Hezbollah launched an attack along the entire border with Israel, the heaviest in the five and a half years since Israel's withdrawal. The barrage was supposed to provide tactical cover for an attempt by a squad of Hezbollah special forces to abduct Israeli troops in the Israeli side of the village of Al-Ghajar. The attack failed when an ambush by the IDF Paratroopers killed 4 Hezbollah members and scattered the rest. The UN Security Council accused Hezbollah of initiating the hostilities. On December 27, 2005 Katyusha rockets fired from Hezbollah territory smashed into houses in the Israeli village of Kiryat Shmona wounding three people. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the Lebanese Government "to extend its control over all its territory, to exert its monopoly on the use of force, and to put an end to all such attacks". Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora denounced the attack as "aimed at destabilizing security and diverting attention from efforts exerted to solve the internal issues prevailing in the country". On December 30, 2005 the Lebanese army dismantled two other Katyusha rockets found in the border town of Naqoura, an action suggesting increased vigilance following PM Saniora's angry remarks. In a new statement Saniora also rejected claims by Al-Qaeda that it was responsible for the attack and insisted again that it was a domestic action challenging his government's authority..

The 2006 Lebanon War was a 33-day military conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. The principal parties were Hezbollah paramilitary forces and the Israeli military. The conflict started on 12 July 2006, and continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect in the morning on 14 August 2006, though it formally ended on 8 September 2006 when Israel lifted its naval blockade of Lebanon.

An explosion was heard in one of Beirut's Muslim sections on 21 May 2007.

In May 2007, militants in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp outside of Tripoli, allied with Al Qaeda began a struggle against government forces located outside of the camp. The violence shook the country and a wave of car bombings, including one in Verdun in Beirut, followed. The violence ended early in September 2007, with the fall of the camp to the Army. There had been no ripple effect across the country, but despite this containment the violence had been the worst to shake Lebanon since the Lebanese Civil War.

In May 2008, fighting broke out in Beirut after the government attempted to disable Hezbollah's private communications network.

On 8 January 2009, during the conflict in Gaza, Katyusha rockets were fired at the northern Israeli city of Nahariyya from Lebanon. On 14 January, rockets were again launched from Lebanese territory.

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Lebanon

Flag of Lebanon

Lebanon (IPA: /ˈlɛbənɒn/ or IPA: /ˈlɛbənən/ Arabic: لبنان Lubnān), officially the Republic of Lebanon or Lebanese Republic (الجمهورية اللبنانية), is a country in Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. It is close to Cyprus through the Mediterranean Sea. Due to its sectarian diversity, Lebanon evolved in 1943 a unique political system, known as confessionalism, based on a community-based power-sharing mechanism. It was created when the ruling French mandatory powers expanded the borders of the former autonomous Ottoman Mount Lebanon district that was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze. The red stripes on the flag means self- sacrifice and the white stripe symbolizes the snow- capped peaks of their mountains.

Lebanon is the historic home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture which flourished for more than 2,000 years (2700-450 BC). Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise present-day Lebanon were mandated to France. The country gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew in 1946.

Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the country enjoyed a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking. It is considered one of the banking capitals of Western Asia, and during its heyday was known to some as the "Switzerland of the East" due to its financial power and diversity at the time. Lebanon also attracted large numbers of tourists to the point that the capital Beirut became widely referred to as the "self-proclaimed Paris of the East." Immediately following the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.

Until July 2006, a considerable degree of stability had been achieved throughout much of the country, Beirut's reconstruction wMedia:as a]]]]]]]lmost complete, and an increasing number of foreign tourists were pouring into Lebanon's resorts. This was until the one month long 2006 Lebanon War, between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, which caused significant civilian death and serious damage to Lebanon's civil infrastructure. The conflict lasted from 12 July 2006 until a cessation of hostilities call, by the UN Security Council, went into effect on 14 August 2006. After some turbulent political times, Lebanon was again able to revive and restablize its economy and government, though the overall situation remains precarious.

The name Lebanon ("Lubnān" in standard Arabic; "Libnén" in the local dialect) comes from the Aramaic (and common West Semitic) root "LBN", meaning "white", which could be regarded as a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon. Occurrences of the name have been found in three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (May be as early as 2100 BC), the texts of the library of Ebla (2400 BC), and 71 times in the Old Testament. The name is recorded in Ancient Egyptian as Rmnn, where R stood for Canaanite L.

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago.

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Seljuks, Mamluks, Crusader, and Ottoman.

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, in a region known as Greater Syria, until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria following World War I. On 1 September 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria. Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druze. On 1 September 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria (related to the country Syria) but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria.

Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany. General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On 26 November 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on 8 November 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on 22 November 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, and its prime minister be Sunni Muslim.

Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon joined the Arab League in invading Israel within hours after its independence.. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while going on an attack on the newly proclaimed Jewish State. The Lebanese military gained nothing during the war, and the Israeli army managed to conquer territory west of the Naphtali Mountains. After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram, Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on 23 March 1949 and the conquered territory was returned. During the war, about 100,000 Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon.

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country's economy, and resulting in massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 wounded. The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982, with the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence. The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.

Nahr al-Bared (Arabic: نهر البارد, literally: Cold River) is a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, 16 km from the city of Tripoli. Some 30,000 displaced Palestinians and their descendents live in and around the camp, which was named after the river that runs south of the camp. The camp was established in December 1949 by the League of Red Cross Societies in order to accommodate the Palestinian refugees suffering from the difficult winter conditions in the Beqaa Valley and the suburbs of Tripoli. The Lebanese Army is banned from entering all Palestinian camps under the 1969 Cairo Agreement.

Late in the night of Saturday May 19th, 2007, a building was surrounded by Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) in which a group of Fatah al-Islam militants accused of taking part in a bank robbery earlier that day were hiding. The ISF attacked the building early on Sunday May 20th 2007, unleashing a day long battle between the ISF and Fatah al-Islam militants. As a response, members of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared Camp attacked an army checkpoint, killing several soldiers in their sleep. The army immediately responded by shelling the camp.

The camp became the centre of the fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam. It sustained heavy shelling while under siege. UNRWA estimates the battle between the army and Islamic militant group Fatah al-Islam destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as much as 85 percent of homes in the camp and ruined infrastructure. The camp’s up to 40,000 residents were forced to flee, many of them sheltering in the already overcrowded Beddawi camp, 10km south.

At least 169 soldiers, 287 insurgents and 47 civilians were killed in the army’s battle with the al-Qaeda-inspired militants. Funds for the reconstruction of the area have been slow to materialise, and life for the displaced refugees is hard..

On 14 February 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance, a pro-Western coalition, accused Syria of the attack due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending President Lahoud's term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, dubbed the 'Cedar Revolution' by the media, that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on 7 April 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri . Preliminary findings of the investigation were officially published on 20 October 2005 in the Mehlis report, which cited indications that high-ranking members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments were involved in the assassination. Eventually, and under pressure from the West, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon . By 26 April 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.. The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

In October 2007, Émile Lahoud finished his second term as president. The opposition conditioned its vote for a successor on a power-sharing deal, thus leaving the country without a president for over 6 months. On 9 May 2008, Hezbollah and Amal resistance, in an armed attack triggered by a government decision on Hezbollah's communications network, temporarily took over Western Beirut . The situation was described by the government as an attempted coup and led many to fear the country was on the brink of another civil war . On 21 May 2008, all major Lebanese parties signed an accord to elect Michel Suleiman president and establish a government of national unity with a veto share for opposition parties, including one Hezbollah minister. The deal was brokered by an Arab League delegation, headed by the Emir and Foreign Minister of Qatar and the Secretary General of the Arab League, after five days of intense negotiations in Doha. Suleiman was officially elected president on 25 May 2008.

Lebanon's national legislature is the unicameral Parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Muslims and Christians, proportionately between the different denominations and proportionately between regions. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions. The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage although the civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The executive branch constitute of the President, the head of state, and the Prime Minister, the head of government. The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term by a two-third majority. The president appoints the Prime Minister. Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon's judicial system is a mixture of Ottoman law, Napoleonic code, canon law and civil law. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. The Constitutional Council rules on constitutionality of laws and electoral frauds. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage and inheritance. Syrian intelligence agency Shu'bat al-Mukhabarat al-'Askariyya has political authority in Lebanon.

Lebanon concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union in late 2001, and both sides initialed the accord in January 2002. Lebanon also has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states and is working toward accession to the World Trade Organization. Aside from Syria, Lebanon enjoys good relations with virtually all of the other Arab countries (despite historic tensions with Libya, the Palestinians, and Iraq), and hosted an Arab League Summit in March 2002 for the first time in more than 35 years. Lebanon is a member of the Francophone countries and hosted the Francophone Summit in October 2002.

Lebanon is located in Western Asia. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west along a 225-kilometre (140 mi) coastline, by Syria to the east and north, and by Israel to the south. The Lebanon-Syria border stretches for 375 kilometres (233 mi) and the Lebanon-Israel border for 79 kilometres (49 mi). The border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in Syria is disputed by Lebanon in a small area called Shebaa Farms, but the border has been demarcated by the United Nations.

Most of Lebanon's area is mountainous terrain, except for the narrow coastline and the Beqaa Valley, which plays an integral role in Lebanon's agriculture. However, climate change and political differences threaten conflict over water resources in Valley .

Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. In coastal areas, winters are generally cool and rainy whilst summers are hot and humid. In more elevated areas, temperatures usually drop below freezing during the winter with frequent, sometimes heavy snow; summers are warm and dry. Although most of Lebanon receives a relatively large amount of rainfall annually (compared to its arid surroundings), certain areas in north-eastern Lebanon receive little due to the high peaks of the western mountain front blocking much of the rain clouds that originate over the Mediterranean Sea.

In ancient times, Lebanon housed large forests of the Cedars of Lebanon, which now serve as the country's national emblem. However, centuries of trading cedar trees, used by mariners for boats, and the absence of any efforts to replant them have depleted the country's once-flourishing cedar forests.

The urban population in Lebanon is noted for its commercial enterprise. Over the course of time, emigration has yielded Lebanese "commercial networks" throughout the world. Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor comparable to most European nations and the highest among Arabic speaking countries.

Although Lebanon is ideally suited for agricultural activities in terms of water availability and soil fertility, as it possesses the highest proportion of cultivable land in the Arabic speaking world, it does not have a large agricultural sector. Attracting a mere 12% of the total workforce, agriculture is the least popular economic sector in Lebanon. It contributes approximately 11.7% of the country's GDP, also placing it in the lowest rank compared to other economic sectors. Major produce includes apples, peaches, oranges, and lemons.

Lebanon's lack of raw materials for industry and its complete dependency on Arab countries for oil have made it difficult for the Lebanese to engage in significant industrial activity. As such, industry in Lebanon is mainly limited to small businesses concerned with reassembling and packaging imported parts. In 2004, industry ranked second in workforce, with 26% of the Lebanese working population, and second in GDP contribution, with 21% of Lebanon's GDP.

A combination of beautiful climate, many historic landmarks and World Heritage Sites continues to attract large numbers of tourists to Lebanon annually, in spite of its political instability. In addition, Lebanon's strict financial secrecy and capitalist economy — though no longer unique in the region — have given it significant, though no longer dominant, economic status among Arab countries. The at-times thriving tourism and banking activities have naturally made the services sector the most important pillar of the Lebanese economy. The majority of the Lebanese workforce (nearly 65%) take employment in the services sector as a result of abundant job opportunities, as the economy itself is not all the diverse. The GDP contribution, accordingly, is very large and amounts to roughly 67.3% of the annual Lebanese GDP. The economy's dependence on services has always been an issue of great criticism and concern, as it leaves the country subject to the instability of this sector and the vagaries of international trade.

The 1975-1990 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a West Asian entrepôt and banking hub. The subsequent period of relative peace enabled the central government to restore control in Beirut, begin collecting taxes (though not always successfully), and regain access to key port and government facilities. Economic recovery has been helped by a financially sound banking system and resilient small- and medium-scale manufacturers, with family remittances, banking services, manufactured and farm exports, and international aid as the main sources of foreign exchange.

Until the 2006 Lebanon War, Lebanon's economy witnessed excellent growth, with bank assets reaching over 75 billion US dollars, though this growth did not trickle down and mostly benefitted those at the top of the socio-economic ladder, with the middle class continuing to be wiped out. By the end of the first half of 2006, the influx of tourists to Lebanon had already registered a 49.3% increase over 2005 figures (which was a low figure, making the 49.3% increase seem more spectacular than it was). Market capitalization was also at an all time high, estimated at $10.9 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2006, just weeks before the fighting started.

The war severely damaged Lebanon's fragile economy, especially the tourism sector. According to a preliminary report published by the Lebanese Ministry of Finance on 30 August 2006, a major economic decline was expected as a result of the fighting.

Rafiq Hariri International Airport, re-opened in September 2006, and the efforts to revive the Lebanese economy have since been proceeding at a slow pace. Major contributors to the reconstruction of Lebanon include Saudi Arabia (with US$ 1.5 billion pledged), the European Union (with about $1 billion) and a few other Gulf countries with contributions of up to $800 million.

All Lebanese schools are required to follow a prescribed curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education. Private schools, approximately 1,400 in all, may also add more courses to their curriculum with approval from the Ministry of Education. The main subjects taught are mathematics, sciences, history, civics, geography, Arabic, and at least one secondary language (either French or English). The subjects gradually increase in difficulty and in number. Students in Grade 11, for example, study up to eighteen different subjects.

The government introduces a mild form of selectivity into the curriculum by giving 11th graders choice between two "concentrations": sciences, humanities, and 12th graders choose between four concentrations: life sciences, general sciences, sociology and economics, and humanities and literature. The choices in concentration do not include major changes in the number of subjects taken (if at all). However, subjects that fall out of the concentration are given less weight in grading and are less rigorous, while subjects that fall within the concentration are more challenging and contribute significantly to the final grade.

These three phases are provided free to all students and the first eight years are, by law, compulsory. Nevertheless, this requirement currently falls short of being fully enforced.

Following secondary school, Lebanese students may choose to study at a university, a college, or a vocational training institute. The number of years to complete each program varies. While the Lebanese educational system offer a very high quality and international class of education, the local employment market lacks of enough opportunities, thus encouraging many of the young educated to travel abroad.

Lebanon has forty-one nationally accredited universities, several of which are internationally recognized. The American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) were the first Anglophone and the first Francophone universities to open in Lebanon, respectively. The universities, both public and private, largely operate in French or English.

At the English universities, students who have graduated from an American-style high school program enter at the freshman level to earn their baccalaureate equivalence from the Lebanese Ministry of Higher Education. This qualifies them to continue studying at the higher levels. Such students are required to have already taken the SAT I and the SAT II upon applying to college, in lieu of the official exams. On the other hand, students who have graduated from a school that follows the Lebanese educational system are directly admitted to the sophomore year. These students are still required to take the SAT I, but not the SAT II. The university academic degrees for the first stage are the Bachelor or the Licence, for the second stage are the Master or the DEA and the third stage is the doctorate.

The United Nations assigned Lebanon an education index of 0.871 in 2008.

The number of people inhabiting Lebanon proper was estimated at 3,925,502 in July 2007. Approximately 18 million people of Lebanese descent are spread all over the world, of whom a majority are Christian. The most live in Brazil, 8 million. In 2007, Lebanon hosted approximately 325,800 refugees and asylum seekers: 270,800 from Palestine, 50,200 from Iraq, and 4,500 from Sudan. Lebanon forcibly returned more than 300 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007.

No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional balance. The CIA World Fact Book gives the following distribution: Muslim - 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian - 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic, Protestant), and 1.3% other. There are 18 recognized religious sects. An 18th sect, the Copts, was officially added recently. Some followers of the Druze religion do not consider themselves to be Muslim, but the state legally considers them Muslim. It should be noted that almost half the groups, though recognized, have less than 5,000 members each, making them inconsequential overall to the fabric of Lebanon and its society.

According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Lebanese Muslims believe that religion is very important.

Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that "Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language may be used". The majority of Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, and sometimes French or English. Lebanese people of Armenian or Greek descent often speak Armenian or Greek fluently. Also in use is Syriac by Maronites and the Syriac minorities. Other languages include Circassian (spoken by 50,000), Tigrinya (30,000), Sinhala (25,000), Polish (5,000), Russian, and Romanian (together 10,000 speakers).

The colloquial language used in Lebanon, which is known as Lebanese, belongs to a group of dialects called Levantine Arabic. It differs from the literary Modern Standard Arabic, due to its historical blend to Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Turkish. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for Lebanese people, especially the better educated, to converse in a combination of Lebanese, English and French, whereby the same sentence would include words or expressions from the different languages. In the 1960s Lebanese linguists proposed 37 letters for the Lebanese dialect based on the Latin alphabets. The Arab League rejected the idea, putting pressure on the Lebanese government to refuse such a project.

The area including modern Lebanon has been home to various civilizations and cultures for thousands of years. Originally home to the Phoenicians, and then subsequently conquered and occupied by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks and most recently the French, Lebanese culture has over the millennia evolved by borrowing from all of these groups. Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country's festivals, musical styles and literature as well as cuisine, and numerous violent clashes amongst different religious and ethnic groups. When compared to the rest of the Western Asia, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated, and as of 2003 87.4% of the population was literate. Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. It is often considered to serve as Europe's gateway to Western Asia as well as the Asian gateway to the Western World.

Lebanese music is known around the Arab world for its soothing rhythms and oriental beats. Traditional and folk music are extremely popular, as are western rhythms. One of the most well-known Lebanese singers is Fairuz; her songs are broadcast every morning on most radio stations and many TV channels, both in Lebanon and the Arab world in general. Other prominent artists include Julia Boutros, composer and oud player Marcel Khalife, Majida El Roumi, Sabah, Wadih El Safi, and the important nun and singer Sister Marie Keyrouz, founder of The Ensemble of the Peace. Some Lebanese artists, such as Najwa Karam and Assi Hellani, remain loyal to a traditional type of music known as 'jabali' ("from the mountains"), while other artists incorporate Western styles into their songs. Lebanese performers are among the most popular in the Arab world, and the star scene includes prominent figures like Najwa Karam, Nancy Ajram, Haifa Wehbe, Elissa, Ragheb Alame, Myriam Fares, Wael Kfoury, Nawal al Zoghbi, Carole Samaha, Julia Boutros, Marwan Khouri, Waleed Tawfeek, Amal Hijazi and Majida El Roumi.

Because of Lebanon's unique geography, both summer and winter sports thrive in the country. In autumn and spring it is sometimes possible to engage in both during the same season, skiing in the morning and swimming in the Mediterranean during the afternoon, much as one can in Cyprus. At the competitive level, basketball, football, and hip ball are among Lebanon's most popular sports. In recent years, Lebanon has hosted the Asian Cup and the Pan-Arab Games; the country will host the Winter Asian Games in 2009.

Lebanon has six ski resorts, with opportunities also available for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. In the summer, skilifts can be used to access hiking trails, with views stretching as far as Cyprus to the west and Syria to the east on clear days. Canoeing, cycling, rafting, climbing, swimming, sailing and spelunking are among the other common leisure sports in Lebanon. Adventure and extreme sports are also possible throughout the country. The Beirut Marathon is held every fall, drawing top runners from Lebanon and abroad. Race day is promoted as a fun, family event, and it has become a tradition for many to participate in costumes or outlandish clothing.

By the turn of the 20th century, Beirut was vying with Cairo as the major centre for modern Arab thought, with many newspapers, magazines, and literary societies.

In literature, Gibran Khalil Gibran, who was born in Bsharri, is particularly known for his book The Prophet, which has been translated into more than twenty different languages. Several contemporary Lebanese writers have also achieved international success; including Elias Khoury, Amin Maalouf and Hanan al-Shaykh.

In art, Moustafa Farroukh was one of Lebanon's most prominent painters of the 20th century. Formally trained in Rome and Paris, he exhibited in venues from Paris to New York to Beirut over his career. His work was applauded for its representation of real life in Lebanon in pictures of the country, its people and its customs. Farroukh became highly regarded as a Lebanese nationalist painter at a time when Lebanon was asserting its political independence. His art captured the spirit and character of the Lebanese people and he became recognized as the outstanding Lebanese painter of his generation. He also wrote five books and taught art at the American University of Beirut.

Several international music festivals are held in Lebanon, featuring world-renowned artists and drawing crowds from Lebanon and abroad. Among the most famous are Baalbeck International Festival, Beiteddine Festival, Byblos International Festival, and the Al-Bustan Festival. Beirut (Beirut Nights) in particular has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous performances, exhibits, fashion shows, and concerts held throughout the year in its galleries, museums, theatres, and public spaces.

Muslims in Lebanon celebrate Eid Al-Fitr (End of the month of fasting, which is called Ramadan) and Eid Al-Adha (The end of Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage).

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Source : Wikipedia