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The Diaspora

Lebanon gained its independence in 1943 with France removing all of its troops by 1946. The country became known as the Paris of the Middle East with its French architecture, stability, and economic strength.

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, over 110,000 Palestinian refugees arrived from Israel. The number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon grew to numbers over 300,000 by 1975. Yassir Arafat was the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and accepted the role as the leader of the Palestinian people. Tensions created by the large population of refugees in Lebanon led to a civil war in the early 1970s. By 1975, the civil war became a full scale conflict, which brought 40,000 Syrian troops to fight the Palestinians in Lebanon.

Palestinian attacks from Lebanon on Israel brought about the Israeli invasion on 15 March 1978 called the Litani River Operation. This brought about the 19 March 1978 Resolution 425 from the United Nations Security Council, which established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon after thirteen days.

The PLO continued rocket and artillery attacks on Israel from Lebanon, which brought about another invasion in 1982. Israel occupied the area from their border to sections of Beirut. In response, a multinational force arrived in Beirut on 20 August 1982 that supervised the withdrawal of PLO from Lebanon. Mediation by the United States brought about the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO forces from Beirut.

At the same time there was a rise of Palestinian groups like Hezbollah, which formed in 1982. These groups carried out terrorist attacks like the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks and the destruction of the U.S. Embassy by a truck bomb.

The political situation in Lebanon deteriorated in 1988 and 1989 as the Parliament could not agree on a president that would replace Amine Gemayel, who replaced his brother Bachir after he was killed in 1982. Gemayel chose General Michel Aoun to head an interim administration when he left office, but this was opposed by Selim al-Hoss, who believed he should have the position. The result was two rival governments struggling for power in a country that had over forty private militias.

The 1989 Ta’if Agreement sponsored by the Arab League brought about the end of the fifteen-year-long civil war. With the new stability in Lebanon the Israelis completed its withdrawal from its territories on 22 May 2000.

Several free elections have been held in Lebanon. Most of the private militias have been disbanded and the Lebanese Armed Forces have been able to extend the authority of the government to about two thirds of the country, while Hezbollah forces remain in the Beqaa Valley and Southern Lebanon. In 2005, Syrian forces completed their withdrawal from Lebanon.

While some Palestinian refugees traveled to Canada and the United States of America, large numbers remained in the Middle East. The refugee problem continues as currently there are 923,000 in Gaza, 2,540,000 in Jordan, 695,000 in Lebanon, 584,000 in Syria, 665,000 in the West Bank, 70,000 in Egypt, and 240,000 in Saudi Arabia.

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