War of Liberation (1989–1990)

The War of Liberation was a subconflict within the final phase of the Lebanese Civil War between 1989 and 1990, in which the Lebanese Army loyal to General and Prime Minister Michel Aoun, appointed by previous President Amine Gemayel and headquartered in eastern Beirut, fought against the western Beirut-based Syrian Armed Forces and the Lebanese Army loyal to President Elias Hrawi and Prime Minister Selim Hoss, appointed by the Taif Agreement. The conflict culminated on 13 October 1990, when the Syrian Army stormed Baabda Palace and other strongholds of Aoun, killing hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and civilians and ousting Aoun, marking the end of the Lebanese Civil War.

War of Liberation
Part of the Lebanese Civil War
DateMarch 1989–13 October 1990
(1 year, 7 months and 5 days)
Beirut and surroundings, Lebanon

Decisive Syrian/Government/LF victory

Lebanese Army under Michel Aoun


Lebanese Army under Elias Hrawi

Lebanese Forces
Commanders and leaders

Michel Aoun Surrendered
Issam Abu Jamra Surrendered

Edgar Maalouf Surrendered

Hafez al-Assad
Elias Hrawi
Selim Hoss
Émile Lahoud[1]
Élie Hayek
René Moawad 

Samir Geagea

40,000 in all of Lebanon[3]

Casualties and losses
500-700 killed during the fighting
Additionally at least 240 unarmed prisoners executed, including civilians[6]


The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, and in 1976 Syria began an occupation of parts of Lebanon. In 1989, various Lebanese Factions signed the Taif Agreement in an attempt to end the Civil War, but Michel Aoun opposed the agreement, since it did not provide a deadline for the withdrawal of Syrian troops.[7]

Leaders involvedEdit

In East Beirut, Aoun's provisional government consisted of himself (prime minister), Colonel Issam Abu Jamra (Greek Orthodox), and Brigadier General Edgar Maalouf (Greek Catholic). President Gemayel's decree, signed 15 minutes before his term expired, also included three Muslim ministers (Sunni, Shiite, Druze), but all three rejected the posts and immediately resigned. Despite this, Aoun insisted he was the legal Prime Minister.[8]

In West Beirut, Hrawi's government consisted of a cabinet equally divided between Christians and Muslims, with Selim Hoss as Prime Minister. The Commander-in-chief of the LAF, General Emile Lahoud, had been appointed on the 28 November 1989. In March 1990, the cabinet selected General Elie Hayek as commander of the Mount Lebanon region.

The Lebanese Forces (LF) - headed by Samir Geagea - were headquartered in La Quarantaine (directly bordering Achrafieh from the East), and were in control of East Beirut, the coastal Metn and Baabda. They held the entire districts (cazas) of Keserwan, Jbeil, Batroun, Koura, Bcharri, and parts of Zgharta.


War beginsEdit

On 8[9] or 14[10] March 1989, Michel Aoun declared a "War of Liberation" against the Syrian occupation,[9] which at that point spanned two-thirds of Lebanese territory.[11] The declaration was preceded a series of clashes between pro-Syrian militias and pro-Aoun forces who tried to close Muslim and Druze militias south of Beirut.[7] Farid El-Khazen of The Washington Post praised the war, writing that it was "not a Palestinian-Syrian-Israeli war for Lebanon, but a war by Lebanese for their own liberation"[12].

On 14-15 March 1989, Aoun's forces shelled West Beirut, while Syrian forces shelled East Beirut. In these shellings, 40 people were killed and 165 were wounded.[10] On the 20th, both sides shelled Kesrwan, the Beqaa, ‘Aley, Metn, Shuf, and the Beirut airport, resulting in 6 deaths and in 21 people being injured.[10] By 31 March, the 17 days of shelling in Beirut, Metn, Aley, and Kesrwan had resulted in 101 deaths and 474 people being wounded.[10]

Aoun under siegeEdit

On 9-11 August, the Syrian Army dropped 20,000 bombs over east Beirut.[10] On 13 August 1989, Forces loyal to Aoun claimed to have repelled a joint Syrian-PLO-Druze attack on Suq-al Gharb, But historian Matthew Preston states that "in reality it was no more than a forceful probe".[13] In September 1989, Elias Hrawi blockaded Michel Aoun's area in Beirut, leaving the 500,000 inhabitants of that area faced with fuel and food shortages.[7]

War in East BeirutEdit

In January 1990, Aoun launched an offensive against the Lebanese Forces in East Beirut. In the months that followed, over 1000 people were killed. In March, Aoun declared a halt to the fighting and announced his willingness to accept the Taif Agreement with certain amendments.[7]

LF hands over territory to Hrawi GovernmentEdit

On the 1st April 1990, Hrawi’s government mandated Fleet Admiral Elie Hayek (who had been appointed commander of the Mount Lebanon region by the cabinet on the 11 March)[14] to take over LF barracks in the governorate. This was part of an agreement between Geagea and Hrawi whereby the army would militarily and politically take over 2/3 of the Christian canton (the remaining 1/3 being the Northern governorate and Achrafieh in East Beirut), but the militia’s 10,000 strong force would remain intact for the time being.[15]

Aoun, however, had publicly stated that he would not accept the handoff or any alliance between the LF and the Hrawi government. As the Elimination War was ravaging East Beirut and its suburbs (up to the Metn), the handoff actually began in Keserwan district – at the level of Nahr el-Kalb – up to Barbara.[16]

By May, however, the LF had taken over the entire coastline from Jounieh to Beirut from Aoun’s troops, completely cutting off naval supply routes.[17] In addition, Geagea placed Hayek in an LF barrack in Jounieh as a symbol of his willingness to integrate with the government, defying Aoun’s refusal of any Hrawi-LF alliance.[18] These developments, combined with the Syrian army’s support, dramatically shifted the odds in favour of the Taef agreement and its government.

13 October massacreEdit

After months of skirmishes, the Syrian Army and Lebanese militias then aligned with Damascus (mainly the Progressive Socialist Party and the Amal movement) stormed the holdout of the military government of East Beirut, led by Gen. Michel Aoun, who had declared a "War of Liberation" against Syria earlier during the year, and had just escaped a mysterious assassination attempt the previous day. On 11 October, Elias Hrawi requested a Syrian military intervention to end Aoun's "rebellion".[7] In the following night, pro-Syrian forces tightened the noose around the Christian enclave, and tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed in the Shiite suburbs and around Souk-el-Gharb, south of Baabda.[7] For the first time since the 1982 air battle, the Syrian Air force jets were allowed to enter the Lebanese air space in order to strike General Aoun military forces. Seven Soviet-made Sukhoi Su-24 jets were used in this operation.[19] An international green light was given to Hafez al-Assad to invade Lebanon, since he promised to assist in the Gulf War with about 10,000 soldiers and 200 tanks. were executed after they surrendered to the Syrian Army.[20] Aoun's forces were headquartered around the Presidential Palace in Baabda, Beirut. The Aounist areas were quickly overrun.

At 7:00 a.m, [21] the Syrian Army attacked the Lebanese Army in eastern Beirut. An estimated 700 people were killed by the Syrian soldiers that day and 2000 had been injured. Estimates of the Lebanese Army losses during the battle, of whom a proportion were executed by the Syrians and including Prisoners of War as between 400 and 500 soldiers. It was also reported[22] that at least 200 supporters of General Aoun, most of them military personnel, were arrested by the Syrian forces in east Beirut and its suburbs, these men simply disappeared. At least 15 civilians were executed by Syrian soldiers in Bsous after having been rounded up from their homes.

One hospital "received 73 bodies of Lebanese army soldiers, each executed at close range with a bullet in the lower right side of the skull" and that 15 civilians were killed by the Syrians in the Bsus. The killing of National Liberal Party (NLP) leader Danny Chamoun, which occurred a couple of days later, was also connected to these incidents.

While the main confrontation was clearly a military one, the attackers afterwards in many instances turned to plundering, and tens of Aounist army soldiers and civilians were summarily executed by Syrian Army soldiers or the militias, as they cemented their hold on the capital.


The attack on the Aoun government marked the end of the Lebanese Civil War. Syria would dominate the political life of the country for the following 15 years, under the auspices of the Taif Agreement.

On 16 October 1990, militias in Beirut began dismantling the Green Line, and on 13 November they completed their withdrawal from Beirut, before the 19 November deadline provided by the Taif agreement.[7]


  1. ^ Hijazi, Ihsan A. (12 March 1990). "Lebanese President Rejects Offer To Negotiate With Rebel General". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Hijazi, Ihsan A. (28 February 1990). "Divisions harden in Lebanese fight". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b "Lebanese Christian General Flees Compound Under Syrian Bombing". Associated Press. 13 October 1990.
  4. ^ "Aoun's departure strategy". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 1 November 1990.
  5. ^ Hijazi, Ihsan A. (17 February 1990). "Christian General Drives His Rivals From East Beirut". The New York Times.
  6. ^ HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WORLD REPORT 1990: An Annual Review of Developments and the Bush Administration's Policy on Human Rights Worldwide, January 1991, Human Rights Watch, page 507.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | AOUN'S DEPARTURE CHRONOLOGY". Refworld. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  8. ^ https://apnews.com/679141a291628d3e10907a43d3f3c5cb
  9. ^ a b "MIDEAST TENSIONS; Chronology of 15 Years Of Civil War in Lebanon". The New York Times. 14 October 1990. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Lebanon's Legacy of Political Violence: A Mapping of Serious Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lebanon, 1975-2008" (PDF). pp. 64, 65.
  11. ^ Hijazi, Ihsan A.; Times, Special To the New York (13 August 1989). "20 More Killed in Lebanon In 3d Day of Heavy Shelling". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  12. ^ El-Khazen, Farid (5 May 1989). "IN LEBANON, A WAR OF LIBERATION".
  13. ^ Preston, Matthew (30 September 2004). Ending Civil War: Rhodesia and Lebanon in Perspective. I.B.Tauris. p. 75. ISBN 9781850435792.
  14. ^ https://www.facebook.com/GeneralHayek/photos/pb.2210586005936595.-2207520000../2210596455935550/?type=3&theater
  15. ^ https://archive.org/stream/ArabTimes1990KuwaitEnglish/Apr%2012%201990%2C%20Arab%20Times%2C%20%237842%2C%20Kuwait%20%28en%29_djvu.txt
  16. ^ Mideast Mirror 22 Oct. 1990, 23
  17. ^ https://civilsociety-centre.org/sir/both-sides-pounded-christian-enclave-daily-claiming-lives-615-people-died-and-more-2000-were
  18. ^ https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/223734/Le_proces_dans_laffaire_Murr_prendra_fin_lundi_avec_les_plaidoieries_de_Karam_et_du_chef_des_FL_Naim_qualifie_dillegale_la_procedure_judiciaire_et_Riz.html
  19. ^ SU-24 over Baabda area. Retrieved: 14 October 2015.
  20. ^ Lebanon since 1979: Syria, Hizballah, and the War against Peace in the Middle East, By Marius Deeb, in The Middle East enters the twenty-first century, By Robert Owen Freedman, Baltimore University 2002, page 214.
  21. ^ "Lebanese Civil War October 13 1990". www.liberty05.com.
  22. ^ "Lebanese Civil War October 13 1990". www.liberty05.com.

External linksEdit


  • William Harris, Faces of Lebanon. Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions (Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, USA 1996)