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Lebanese Forces

Lebanese Forces (LF) (Arabic: القوات اللبنانية al-quwat al-lubnāniyya) is a Lebanese political party and a former militia, which fought on the Christian side during the civil war that ravaged Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. After the civil war ended, the movement reinvented itself as a political party. In 1994, it was banned, and the activities of its militants repressed by the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon and the pro-Syrian government. The LF returned as legal party after the Cedar Revolution in early 2005 resulted in a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The movement is officially secular, but in practice it has always been supported almost exclusively by Christians, mainly Catholic Maronites as well as Orthodox, Evangelicals, and the Armenian Lebanese. Its leader since 1986 is Samir Geagea.


Early history (1976–1982)

Formation
The Lebanese Forces "LF" were informally organized in 1976 under the leadership of Bachir Gemayel, son of Pierre Gemayel, the founder of one of the main Christian political groups, the Phalanges or Kataeb party. It began as the military wing of the Phalanges and extended later to all other Christian military factions of the joint Lebanese Front. The main reason behind the formation of the LF was to strengthen the Christian side against the alliance of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), including the Palestinian factions of the Rejectionist Front, Muslim militias, and the Lebanese National Movement, an umbrella of leftist Militias. From the start, the LF included the Lebanese Phalanges, the National Liberal Party (or Ahrar), the Al-Tanzim, the "Christian Connections" ("al Rawabit al masihiya") and the Guardians of the Cedars led by Etienne Saqr.

Clashes with Chamoun
In July 1980, following months of intra-Christian clashes between the Tigers and the Phalangists, Bachir Gemayel launched an operation dubbed «Unification of the Rifle», in an attempt to unite all the Christian militias under his command. This operation resulted in a massacre of tens of Tigers' members and their families at the Marine beach resort in Safra, 25 km north of Beirut. Camille Chamoun's silence was interpreted as condonation because the Tigers led by his son Dany were getting out of his control.[citation needed]

Siege of Zahle
On April 2, 1981, the Syrian army heavily bombarded the city of Zahle, the largest Catholic city in the Middle East. There were less than a hundred LF fighters in the city at the beginning of the battle. Zahle was sieged for three months during which it was violently shelled, but the population refused to surrender. Meanwhile, protests were held in East Beirut urging the end of the siege. It finally ended with the withdrawal of the Syrian troops (and snipers) from around the city, and the evacuation of LF fighters to Beirut. The LF combatants were honored at their arrival to the LF headquarters in Karantina.

Israeli invasion
In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, arguing that a military intervention was necessary to root out PLO guerrillas from the southern part of the country. Israeli forces eventually moved towards Beirut and laid siege to the city, aiming to reshape the Lebanese political landscape.
After the PLO had been expelled from the country to Tunisia, in a negotiated agreement, LF leader Bachir Gemayel was promoted by Israeli and American governments as president of Lebanon. He was elected by the parliament in September; most Muslim members of parliament boycotted the vote. Nine days before he was to take office, on September 14, 1982, he was killed along with 25 others in a bomb explosion in the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafieh. The attack was carried out by a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), believed by many to have acted on instructions of the Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad. Israel then moved to occupy the city, allowing Phalanges and LF members to enter the centrally located Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila; a massacre followed, which killed 5000 women and childern in about 3 hours, which caused an international uproar.

The Amine Gemayel years (1982–1988)

Battles

Mountain War
After the Israeli invasion, the IDF troops settled in the Chouf and Aley districts in Mount Lebanon. This, along with the election of Bachir Gemayel as president of the republic led to the return of the Christian refugees that fled their homes at the beginning of war. The LF returned back to the positions in the villages they were in seven years ago. Some individual vengeance acts committed against the Druze population caused anger and resentment among them. This will be one of the reasons behind the atrocities perpetrated during the Mountain War. The LF participated in the "Mountain War," but could not prevent the evacuation of the majority of the Christian population and the destruction of many Christian villages by the Druze Progressive Socialist Party "PSP" and allied Palestinian militias.
The LF also fought battles against the Palestinians, Druze PSP and Syrians east of the southern city of Sidon. The outcome was a PSP militia victory and a contigous Druze Chouf district with access to the sea.

Internal power struggles
After the death of Bachir, his brother Amine Gemayel had replaced him as President, and his cousin, Fadi Frem, as commander of the LF. The two had a frosty relationship, and in 1984, pressure from Amine led to Frem's replacement by Fuad Abou Nader, a nephew of Gemayel's.
On March 12, 1985, Samir Geagea, Elie Hobeika and Karim Pakradouni rebelled against Abou Nader's command, ostensibly to take the LF back to its original path. The relationship between Geagea and Hobeika soon broke down, however, and Hobeika began secret negotiations with the Syrians. On December 28, 1985, he signed the Tripartite Accord, against the wishes of Geagea and most of the other leading Christian figures. Claiming that the Tripartite Accord gave Syria unlimited power in Lebanon, Geagea mobilized factions inside the LF and on January 15, 1986, attacked Hobeika's headquarters in Karantina. Hobeika surrendered and fled, first to Paris and subsequently to Damascus. He then moved to Zahle with tens of his fighters where he prepared for an attack against East Beirut. On September 27, 1986, Hobeika's forces tried to take over the city of Achrafieh but the LF held them back.
This failed attempt by Hobeika was the last episode of internal struggles in East Beirut during Amine Gemayel's mandate. As a result, the LF led by Geagea were the only major force on the ground. During two years of frail peace, Geagea launched a drive to re-equip and reorganize the Lebanese Forces. He also instituted a social welfare program in areas controlled by the LF. The LF also cut its relations with Israel and emphasized relations with the Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia, Irak, Jordan, Egypt and the PLO.
On August 18, 1988,the LF detained several members of the Lebanese Parliament, thereby preventing the return to the Presidency of Suleiman Franjieh who was pro-Syrian.

The Aoun years (1988–1990)
Two rival governments contended for recognition following Amine Gemayel's departure from the Presidency in September 1988. The LF initially supported the military government led by Gen. Michel Aoun, the commander of the Lebanese Army. However, clashes erupted between the LF militia and the Lebanese Army under the control of Michel Aoun on February 14, 1989, since the LF controlled many ports illegally.These clashes were stopped, and after a meeting in Bkerké, the LF handed the national ports which it controlled to Aoun's government under pressure from the Lebanese National army.
Geagea initially supported Aoun's "Liberation War" against the Syrian army, but then agreed to the Taif Agreement "Taif," which was signed by the Lebanese deputies on 24 October 1989, which demanded an immediate ceasefire. Aoun's main objection to "Taif" was its vagueness as to Syrian withdrawal from the country. He rejected it vowing that he "would not sign over the country." Syrian occupation would last another 15 years. Fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out between the army and the LF, called the "Elimination War" by on January 30, 1990.

The Second Republic (1990–2005)
After Aoun surrendered on 13 October 1990 to the rival Syrian-backed President, Elias Hrawi, Geagea was offered ministerial posts in the new government. He refused several times, saying that he was opposed to Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, and his relationship with the new government deteriorated On March 23, 1994, the Lebanese government ordered the dissolution of the LF. On April 21, 1994, Geagea was arrested on charges of setting a bomb in the church in Zouk, of instigating acts of violence, and of committing assassinations during the Lebanese Civil War. Although he was acquitted of the first charge, Geagea was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on several different counts, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. He was incarcerated in solitary confinement, with his access to the outside world severely restricted. Amnesty International criticized the conduct of the trials and demanded Geagea's release, and Geagea's supporters argued that the Syrian-controlled Lebanese government had used the alleged crimes as a pretext for jailing Geagea and banning an anti-Syrian party.

After the Cedar Revolution
The LF was an active participant in the Cedar Revolution of 2005, when popular protests and international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri combined to force Syria out of Lebanon. In the subsequent parliamentary election held in May and June, the LF formed part of the Rafik Hariri Martyr List (LF, Future Movement, Popular Socialist Party, the reformed Phalanges, and other political parties), allied with the powerfull (Hizbollah and Amal) against General Aoun and his Free Partiotic Movement and subsequently gained a majority in the Lebanese Parliament based on a controversial election law which was written by the Syrians to control Lebanon. The political alliance with Hizbollah and Amal would soon end, as Hariri used the alliance to win the elections with an unfair law called "2000's law"; these parties and movements would later form the March 14 Alliance, opposed to the oppositional March 8 Coalition backed by Hizbullah and Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement lead by General Aoun.
Geagea was freed on 18 July 2005.

Present political representation
The LF currently holds 5 out of the 128 seats (4%) in the Lebanese Parliament, and are represented in the Siniora government, formed in July 2005, by the minister of Tourism Joseph Sarkis. In the last by-elections conducted on the August 5, 2007, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb lost the elections.

Leaders of the LF
Bachir Gemayel (1976-1982)
Fadi Frem (1982-1984)
Fouad Abou Nader (1984-1985)
Samir Geagea (1986-present)
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