Lebanon celebrated the 33rd anniversary of its independence from France on Monday (22 November) with Syrian troops keeping the peace after 19 ruinous months of civil war.
Lebanon celebrated the 33rd anniversary of its independence from France on Monday (22 November) with Syrian troops keeping the peace after 19 ruinous months of civil war. Under a mandate from the Arab League, the Syrian army now controls almost all the country after sending troops, with tanks in support, into the Ports of Tripoli and Sidon on Sunday (21 November).
SYNOPSIS: As the Syrian tanks rolled into Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, they ended an eight-month siege by rightists. They were greeted by cheering crowds of people. Some left-wing militia men, who'd been fighting against them only weeks before, emptied their machine guns into the air for joy, wounding about a dozen people. Barricades that had kept the warring factions apart for so long crumbled before the bulldozers that the troops brought in and with them hopes for an enduring peace grew.
Many of the young men along the route clambered aboard the tanks as they made their way to the city centre. The entry of the Syrians released the half-empty port from shellfire and a prolonged civil war crime wave. It's estimated that at least 2000 civilians were killed by daily bombardments from rightist troops that surrounded the city during the fighting.
In Sidon, 25 miles (40 kilometres) south of Beirut, the reception for the peacekeepers was quieter, but happy. Newsmen in the town said residents threw flowers at the tanks and crowds jammed Gamal Abdel Nasser Square where the Syrians, then backing the Lebanese rightists, were driven out of the town by the leftists in a bloody June battle. By the afternoon the Syrian army controlled Lebanon's coastal highway from the Syrian border in the north to a point south of Sidon -- a distance of 100 miles (160 kilometres) and about four-fifths of the length of the country.
The number of Syrian army peacekeepers in Lebanon is now estimated at close to 30,000 and they are pledged to smash any force on either side which attempts to resume the civil war.