It was the fact that gunmen killed four Phalangists that caused the war to ignite in Beirut on April 13, 1975; the attack was originally aimed on Pierre Jumayyil. The assassins were believed to be Palestinian and therefore later on during that same day, the Phalangists retaliated with an attack on a bus that was travelling through a Christian neighborhood. The bus was filled with Palestinian passengers and twenty-six occupants were killed. Fighting erupted the next day between Phalangists and Palestinian fighters. The fact that Beirut’s areas were relatively divided into various sectors based upon religion and other factors as such, random killing developed. Civilians remained in their homes during the beginning stages of the battle and some of these civilians could not help but think that these were signs of war.
The government was largely ineffective, especially in the early stages of the conflict. This is partly due to the fact that Kamal Jumblatt(the Druze figurehead and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party at the time) and his leftist supporters tried to rally support against the Phalangists. This attempt failed, however, as the other Christian factions teamed up with Jumayyil and the Phalange. This widened the gap between the Christians(who had become a minority by this time but still refused to share economic and political power with the Muslim majority) and the rest of the Lebanese sects. As a result of this division, then Prime Minister Rashid el-Solh and his cabinet resigned, being replaced by Rashid Karami and his cabinet. Despite many calls for his resignation, President Sleiman Frangieh stubbornly refused to let go of his position. As the various sects grouped themselves into two larger warring factions, residents of areas with a mixed sectarian population were forced to seek refuge in areas where their sect was dominant. Although the conflict has often been classified as Christian versus Muslim, in reality the conflict was far more multifaceted. The faction in favor of maintaining the status quo consisted of various Christian militias (namely Jumayyil’s Phalange, Kamil Shamun’s Ahrar, and Frangieh’s Marada) and came to be known as the Lebanese Front. The opposition was primarily led by Kamal Jumblatt and consisted of his Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and a number of other leftist groups such as the Lebanese Communist Party, and other groups such as Palestinian militias. This faction was known as the Lebanese National Movement(LNM), and was considerably less united and organized than the Lebanese Front(LF).
To the surprise of many, by the end of 1975 neither faction had an advantage, despite the fact that the LF was far more organized and an overwhelming favorite to win the war. At this point the government had still not managed to make any substantial progress in solving the conflict, with the exception of a few short-lived and ineffective cease-fires. The obvious impotence of the political system sparked discussions of a political restructuring, but these talks soon fizzled out. Frangieh, aware of the government’s obvious shortcomings, asked for Syrian assistance, but the Syrians proved to be just as ill-equipped to resolve the conflict. In some cases, it is believed that the Syrians actually aggravated the situation further by provoking both sides. It wasn’t until the Lebanese Army(who had for the most part stayed out of the conflict) started to split up, however, that it became apparent that any immediate resolution of the conflict was out of reach. In 1976, Syrian involvement increased heavily. After many failed diplomatic attempts to resolve the conflict and a number of heavy confrontations between the Lebanese Front and the Palestinian militias (most notably, the LF’s siege on the Palestinian refugee camp of Tal el-Zaatar, the LF’s virtual obliteration of the Muslim area of Karantina, and the subsequent Palestinian Liberation Army(PLA) and LNM takeover of Damour, a Christian stronghold...
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