Lebanon Table of Contents
As the tension in the Biqa Valley subsided, IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan urged Begin to mount an artillery bombardment of Palestinian bases in Lebanon. Israel routinely conducted preemptive artillery attacks and air strikes to deter PLO terrorist attacks against Galilee settlements in northern Israel. Then, on July 10, 1981, the IDF commenced five days of air strikes and naval bombardments against PLO strongholds in southern Lebanon.
The PLO fought back by shelling the Israeli resort town of Nahariyya on the Mediterranean coast. The conflict escalated as Israel launched a devastating air raid against the heavily populated Palestinian neighborhood of Fakhani in West Beirut, killing over 100 people and wounding over 600. By Israeli estimates, only thirty of those killed were terrorists. For ten days, the PLO then unleashed artillery fire against the upper Galilee. Although only six Israeli citizens were killed, many Israelis were shocked and stunned by the PLO's capability to sustain such an attack.
On July 24, Ambassador Habib returned to Israel to negotiate an end to the artillery duel. Because the PLO was almost out of ammunition and most of its guns had been silenced, the IDF wanted to prolong the fighting until it could win a clear-cut victory. But the Israeli cabinet was eager to comply with Habib's cease-fire proposal, and Israel entered into a truce with the PLO.
PLO leader Yasir Arafat was determined not to break the ceasefire . On a political level, the truce enhanced the PLO's diplomatic credibility. Tactically, it allowed the PLO time to reinforce its military strength in southern Lebanon. The Soviet Union refused to provide the PLO with weapons, but PLO emissaries purchased arms from East European countries and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), acquiring Grad and Katyusha artillery rockets and antiquated but functional T-34 tanks. More significant, Arafat reorganized the command and control structure of his forces, transforming the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) from a decentralized collection of terrorist and guerrilla bands to a disciplined standing army. By 1981 the Kastel, Karami, and Yarmuk brigades were established, and seven new artillery battalions were organized.
But on June 3, 1982, terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization, a group that had split off from the PLO, attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Israel seized on the attack as the pretext for launching its long-planned offensive. On June 4, IDF aircraft bombed Palestinian targets in West Beirut, and the PLO resumed artillery fire on Israeli settlements in the northern Galilee.
The Israeli cabinet convened and voted to authorize an invasion, named Operation Peace for Galilee, but it set strict limits on the extent of the incursion. The IDF was to advance no farther than forty kilometers, the operation was to last only twenty-four hours, Syrian forces were not to be attacked, and Beirut was not to be approached.
Data as of December 1987