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Books for Kids:
Terrorist Attacks: Attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut


Rosen Publishing



Terrorist Attacks: Attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut






After the September 11 attacks on the United States, interest in terrorism spread through the publishing industry and down into the young adults category. The name of the suicide bomber who drove a truck in the Marines barracks at Beirut International has never been discovered, so the challenge of this book was to present a full account of the politics, events, and circumstances that led up to the attack.

How does one explain to sixth graders the problems of the seventeen different political factions in Lebanon in 1983, which by extension touched on the conflicts between the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis? How does one make it clear, engaging, and informative? Above all, it was personally important to present the problems of the Middle East from a balanced viewpoint. If, after reading the book, the reader continues, as the book suggests, to ask questions about the Middle East and America's role in it, then the book has accomplished its task.

This sample comes from the final draft submitted to the publisher and covers the historical events that led up to the invasion of Israel into Lebanon in the summer of 1982.



This book was published in Spring 2003.



Chapter 4: Israel Invades Lebanon

By 1976, the PLO had control of West Beirut, and the ruling Phalangists had a full Civil War on their hands. The Christian Phalangists were bitterly opposed by the PLO and the Druze people. The PLO was a most serious problem, as it was for their neighbors to the south: Israel.

The Phalangists and Israel

To South Lebanon, the PLO had been bringing artillery guns and even tanks. Artillery shells were falling on towns, farms and villages in northern Israel to terrorize the Israeli population.

Since 1976, Israel and the Maronite Christians had been talking in secret about the PLO, their common problem. To stay in control of their country during the Civil War, the Phalangists needed weapons that they did not have. Israel had those weapons. By the end of 1976, weapons were flowing from Israel to the Phalangists. But it was not enough.

  • The Phalangists wanted Israel to come into Lebanon and to clean out the PLO. However, their discussions were slow and difficult for the following reasons:
  • If the Phalangists publicly invited the Israelis, who were Jews, into Lebanon, all of the Muslim groups of Lebanon would then oppose the Phalangists. By 1976, Muslims outnumbered Christians.
  • If the Phalangists invited the Israelis, they would anger Syria, their neighbor to the east. In 1976, Syria invaded Lebanon to help the Phalangists and had remained in Beirut and East Lebanon. An invasion by Israel, Syria's enemy, might spark a war between them on Lebanon's soil.
  • If Israel invaded Lebanon, it had to quickly clean out the PLO and get out, for Israel had no interest in getting involved in Lebanon's internal problems. Israel had enough problems maintaining its borders.
  • If Israel invaded Lebanon without invitation, Israel would anger the other nations in the Middle East and their greatest ally, the United States, which supplied most of their weapons.

Israel, the United States, and the Cold War

Why are the US and Israel such strong allies?

According to the United States census, Jews compose 2.3 percent of the American population. In America, Jews have formed political groups that are very good at putting pressure on the US government. Groups such as American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), United Jewish Communities, and the American Jewish Congress pressure the US government to vote for more financial aid and political support for Israel.

Additionally, at the time, the United States was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. These two countries were the most powerful in the world because of their strong militaries and vast numbers of nuclear weapons. Their political and economic systems, however, were so different that they were natural enemies.

A direct war between them could have resulted in nuclear destruction of the planet, so these two superpowers fought each other through their allies. In the Middle East, the Soviet Union supported Syria, the enemy of Israel. To Syria, the Soviet Union sent thousands of tanks, ammunition, planes, and military advisors. To Israel, the US sent the same. In this manner, the United States and Soviet Union struggled for influence in the Middle East and all over the world. An Israeli invasion into Lebanon could add very dangerous sparks to the Cold War.

Israel Invades Lebanon

[{Picture of Bashir Gemayel: CAPTION: Bashir Gemayel, President-elect of Lebanon, unified the Phalange party. SAMPLE SOURCE: N/A NOTES: N/A]

Nevertheless, Israel was very eager to help Lebanon to get rid of the PLO. In the late 1970s, Israel developed a relationship with the leader of the Phalange party, Bashir Gemayel. Inheriting control of the party from his father, Bashir Gemayel proved to be a ruthless and effective commander. By 1980, he had united the various groups of Maronite Christians into one militia that became the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Young people rallied to his side, and with more people and weapons, Bashir grew his organization and grew closer to Israel.

In 1981, Ariel Sharon became Defense Minister of Israel and began to plan an invasion Lebanon to clean out the PLO. In November of that year, Bashir Gemayel announced his intention to run for President of Lebanon in the summer of 1982 and needed Israel's help to win. So, Gemayel and Sharon began to build a joint plan for an Israeli invasion. In the plan, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) would invade in South Lebanon to clear out the PLO, and the LAF would take care of the PLO in Beirut. If the joint operation was successful, Gemayel would likely become President of Lebanon at the end of the summer, and Israel would have a good friend to the north.

In May 1982, Sharon met with American Secretary of State Alexander Haig to get approval for the invasion. Haig agreed in principle that the Middle East needed to be rid of groups like the PLO. On May 28, Haig sent a letter to Israel summarizing his talks with Sharon. While Haig was clear that the United States would support an action in Lebanon only if the PLO acted first, the Israelis felt that the PLO had acted enough. They interpreted the letter as an "okay" from the United States to invade.

On June 6, 1982, Israeli tanks rolled across the border into South Lebanon. One tank division swept up the west coast towards Tyre and Sidon, where another force had landed by sea. Another division cleared out the central part of South Lebanon and attacked Beaufort Castle from which mortar shells had been launched into Israel.

[{Map of Israel Invasion: CAPTION: Israeli invasion of Lebanon on June 6, 1982. SAMPLE SOURCE: Schiff, p130 is good. Perhaps the map can be expanded to include the entire march up to Beirut. P153 and p183 show the continuation. NOTES: Invasion should show the direction of tank and troop movements through South Lebanon and towards Beirut.]

To the Palestinians fighters in South Lebanon, no aid came from their Arab allies. Even the Syrian tanks parked in the Bekaa Valley in East Lebanon did not move to protect the Palestinians in the south. All of those promises of support had been empty talk. The Israeli tank divisions rolled quickly from town to town through South Lebanon, cleaning out PLO fighters.

To the Israelis, the battles to clean the PLO out of South Lebanon were a success, but Defense Minister Ariel Sharon wanted more. After all, the PLO headquarters were a few short miles away in West Beirut. The tanks were moving, and Sharon kept pushing his tank commanders northward.

Those tanks rolled over PLO positions and destroyed a number of Shi'ite villages. Until then, the Shi'ites had remained mostly small farmers in the south. With their homes destroyed, they were forced northward into the slums of southern Beirut, a very poor area that became known as the "belt of misery." Angering the Shi'ites would prove to be a mistake.

Within a week of the invasion, the Israel Defense Forces had advanced all the way to Beirut and had decimated Syrian missile batteries in the Bekaa Valley. Syria also lost 90 Soviet-built airplanes and hundreds of tanks. To the Syrian commanders, the Israelis sent a message and a map: the Israelis had superior weapons and greater numbers, and the map showed the route that the Syrian commanders could take their troops back to Syria. Syria left, angered and humiliated. Somehow, the conflict did not spread into Syria and Israel.

Throughout the summer of 1982, Israel pounded and pounded the PLO in West Beirut without success. Defense Minister Sharon had counted on help from the LAF to get rid of the PLO, but the LAF avoided the fight. What Israel had believed to be a joint operation with the LAF had turned into an Israeli war.

The Truck Driver

In the summer of 1982, where was the truck driver? If he was in West Beirut, he saw Israeli tanks roll through his streets, running over cars and shooting shells into apartments. If he was in Syria, he saw on TV the destruction of Syrian tanks and national pride. If he was in the belt of misery, he saw too much of all of it. And if he looked out to sea, he may have seen a new and bigger problem steaming towards Beirut: US aircraft carriers.

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(c) 2007 Steven P. Olson. All rights reserved. Samples are for demonstration purposes only.