Elie Hobeika


Lebanon's long history of foreign rule finally ends on 22 November 1943, since celebrated as Lebanon's Independence Day. Almost from the outset, independent Lebanon's political environment is characterised by conflict and upheavals.

The proclamation of the independent state of Israel in May 1948 and the subsequent 'War of Independence' between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations also leaves unresolved tensions that will profoundly influence Lebanon.

Palestinian refugees from Israel soon begin to arrive in Lebanon, with their numbers steadily increasing to between 270,000 and 400,000. Along with the refugees will come Palestinian guerrillas committed to a fight to win back their homeland.

As the number of Palestinian refugees increases, Lebanon's Christian community begins to fear that the countries demographic and religious balance will be overturned. The Phalange Party formed by Peirre Gemayel in 1936 wants the refugees to leave Lebanon and is prepared to use violence to achieve this aim.

Gemayel established the Phalange after observing fascist youth organisations as he competed in the Berlin Olympic Games. He was an admirer of the fascist dictators in Germany, Italy and Spain - Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Francisco Franco. More background.

Mini biography

Born in 1956 in the Lebanese village of Qleiaat (also spelt Kleiat). A Maronite Christian, Hobeika joins the Phalange in his early teens. He becomes a friend of Bashir Gemayel, the eldest son of Pierre Gemayel.

1967 - On 5 June Israel launches a preemptive strike against Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, which are threatening to launch their own attack. Israeli forces overwhelm the Arabs during the following 'Six-Day War' and occupy the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, East Jerusalem, most of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and the Golan Heights.

1968 - Following the Six-Day War Palestinian guerrilla groups led by Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) head Yasir Arafat begin to use Lebanon as a base for operations against Israel. (At the height of their strength about 35,000 Palestinian troops will be stationed in Lebanon.)

Israel retaliates with counterattacks, including a raid on Beirut International Airport on 28 December. The Lebanese Army also becomes engaged in periodic clashes with the guerrillas.

1969 - Under the 'Cairo Agreement' with its neighbouring Arab states, Lebanon formally allows the PLO to use its territory. Phalange leader Pierre Gemayel opposes the agreement.

In the middle of the year the Palestinian guerrilla groups move to new bases in southern Lebanon that are better located for attacks against Israel. The bases become subject to regular raids by Israel and the Lebanese Army.

On 2 November the Lebanese commander-in-chief and Yasir Arafat sign a cease-fire agreement setting limits on Palestinian guerrilla operations in Lebanon. While some calm is restored Shia Muslim Lebanese living in the country's south continue to migrate to Beirut in order to escape Israeli operations against the Palestinians.

1970 - Renewed clashes break out between the Lebanese Army and the Palestinian guerrillas, leading to a nationwide strike in May by Lebanese Muslims sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

The situation becomes more volatile in late 1970 and 1971 when large numbers of Palestinians are expelled from Jordan and enter Lebanon.

1971 - During the second half of the year confrontations occur between Lebanese right-wing groups and the Palestinians. At the same time, other sectors of the Lebanese community take to the streets in demonstrations in support of the Palestinian guerrillas.

1972 - Ongoing conflict and demonstrations, coupled with a deterioration in the economy, cause the government to declare martial law in some areas. Meanwhile, the PLO opens its headquarters in Beirut.

1973 - On April 10 Israeli commandos assassinate three leaders of the Palestinian resistance movement during a raid on Beirut. The following month the Lebanese Army steps up its operations against the Palestinian guerrillas, an action that results in the arrival of guerrilla reinforcements from Syria.

Martial law is declared and a new agreement is negotiated to limit guerrilla activity.

On 6 October Syria and Egypt launch a surprise attack against Israel. During 18 days of bloody fighting the Israelis drive the Syrians back and surround the Egyptian Third Army. A cease-fire is declared on 25 October.

Though remaining neutral, the war has a lasting effect on Lebanon, with the growing presence of the PLO in the country's south, combined with increased Israeli incursions, causing the local Shia community to become increasingly disaffected.

1975 - On 13 April gunmen kill four Phalangists during an attempt to assassinate Phalange Party leader Pierre Gemayel. The same day the Phalangists retaliate by attacking a bus carrying Palestinian passengers, killing 27. Fighting between Christians and Muslims then starts in earnest. The Lebanese Civil War has begun.

Among the many Lebanese sectarian factions, two distinct groupings emerge. Those favouring the maintenance to the existing political system (principally the Maronite Christians) come to be known as the Lebanese Front. Those wanting a change to a more truly representative system (Muslims, Druzes, leftists, and sections of the PLO) are referred to as the Lebanese National Movement (LNM). The Lebanese Front totals about 30,000 troops, while the LNM has about 20,000.

Included in the Lebanese Front is the Phalangist militia, led by Bashir Gemayel, the son of Pierre. The militia is made up of about 2,000 full-time recruited soldiers and about 3,000 reservists.

Hobeika becomes a key member of the militia and quickly gains a reputation as a ruthless fighter.

Meanwhile, an alliance is formed between the Lebanese Christians and Israel soon after the start of the war, with the Israelis supplying significant aid, including arms, uniforms and training. On the Lebanese side the alliance comes to be dominated by the Phalangists. On the Israeli side the Institute for Intelligence and Special Assignments (Mossad) is the principal coordinating agency, although the intelligence branch of the Israeli Defence Forces is also involved.

1976 - In January a coalition of Christian militias begins a siege of Tall Zatar, a Palestinian refugee camp in East Beirut. When Tall Zatar eventually falls in August thousands of Palestinian refugees are killed during a "clean up" ordered by Bashir Gemayel. The Lebanese Front also overruns and levels Karantina, a Muslim quarter in East Beirut.

In response, the PLO's armed wing, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), joins the LNM in the war. These numbers are further boosted when Muslim troops in the Lebanese Army mutiny and also join the LNM.

The LNM now takes the ascendancy in a conflict characterised by bitter revenge killings, including the massacre by the PLA of hundreds of Christians in the town of Damour (Damur) to the south of Beirut.

The massacre at Damour has a personal impact on Hobeika, with much of his family and his fiancée being killed by Palestinian militiamen. Hobeika is said to be deeply affected by the murders.

At the end of May, in order to prevent a LNM victory in the war, Syria intervenes on the side of the Lebanese Front. By late July the LNM has been subdued. A peace conference is subsequently held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 16 October, formally halting the war though not bringing it to a final end.

This first stage of the conflict has left between 44,000 and 100,000 dead and about 180,000 wounded. Much of Beirut has been destroyed and the city has been divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called 'Green Line'.

Syria remains a presence in Lebanon, with Syrian troops making up about 90% of the 30,000-strong Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) created by the Arab League to maintain calm.

Palestinians also remain in Lebanon and take virtual control of the country's south. They face tough opposition from Christian militia, leading to the migration of about 200,000 people from the region.

The situation is further complicated by the entry of the Israeli Defence Forces into southern Lebanon for three months in 1978.

Meanwhile, in August 1976 many of Lebanon's Christian militias come together under a joint command council known as the Lebanese Forces. Over the following years other Christian militias will also be integrated into the Lebanese Forces, often with extreme violence. By July 1980 the Lebanese Forces will be controlled by the Phalangists and led by Bashir Gemayel.

1977 - Hobeika is made military commander of the Phalangist's southern sector. He is later promoted to head of the third division of the Phalange in charge of special operations.

1978 - In February fighting breaks out between the ADF and the Lebanese Army in East Beirut.

In response to attacks by PLO guerrillas, Israel invades southern Lebanon in March. The Israelis withdraw three months later, following a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution, but leave their border posts in control of a Lebanese ally, the South Lebanon Army.

On 13 June Hobeika leads a raid on the mansion of Tony Franjieh, a rival Christian militia commander and MP for Zghorta. Franjieh is killed, along with his wife, his four-year-old daughter and his bodyguards are killed.

At the start of July, following provocation by the Phalangist militia, the ADF begins a bombardment of the Christian sectors of East Beirut that will continue until October. When the UN Security Council calls for a cease-fire and Israel threatens to intervene on behalf of its Christian ally, the pro-Syrian ADF withdraws.

1979 - Hobeika is made head of the Lebanese Forces' Security Agency (Jihaz al-Amin), a position in which he will develop close ties the Israeli military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He travels to Israel often and receives training at Israeli military bases. He will also attend a training course at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in 1982.

1980 - On 7 July Hobeika coordinates a bloody operation against a rival Christian faction that cements the Phalangist control of the Lebanese Forces.

In the middle of December fighting breaks out between the ADF and the Lebanese Forces in town of Zahlah, about 15 km west of the Syrian border and 50 km from Damascus.

1981 - In April Phalange leader Bashir Gemayel further provokes Syria by sending 100 Phalangist militiamen into Zahlah.

After Gemayel tells the Israelis that Syria plans to retaliate by attacking Lebanon's Christian heartland Israel again intervenes on behalf of the Phalangists, shooting down two Syrian helicopters on a mountain overlooking Zahlah. In response Syria brings surface-to-air missiles into Lebanon, causing a regional "missile crisis."

The fighting to control Zahlah will last until 30 June. At the urging of the United States and the Saudi Arabians, Bashir Gemayel subsequently agrees to Syrian demands to sever ties with Israel.

Hobeika, who has already begun to cultivate ties with the Syrians, is asked by Gemayel to continue the dialogue. He will travel to Damascus and France for numerous meetings with senior Syrian office holders. Hobeika will later receive personal protection from Syria.

With the Lebanese Government incapable of exerting any lasting control, the security situation within the country progressively deteriorates. In the south, clashes break between the Shia militia, Amal, and Fatah, a part of the PLO. West Beirut, Tripoli, and southern Lebanon are continuously rocked by violent conflicts. Muslim and Christian leaders become targets for terrorist attacks. Shia terrorists inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran further increase the level of violence.

Meanwhile, Hobeika marries Gina Raymond Nachaty. The couple will have a son. A daughter dies while a baby.

1982 - In a bid to halt PLO rocket attacks on its northern border districts, bolster its Phalangist allies and squash Syrian influence in the region Israel invades Lebanon on 6 June.

The only initial resistance the Israelis face comes from the PLO. Lebanese Shias, Christians and Druzes all welcome the advancing forces.

The Israelis approach Beirut but are temporarily halted by Syrian troops. However, after the Syrian Air Force and air defence system are crushed without a single loss to the Israeli Air Force, the Syrian ground forces become exposed. On 11 June Israel and Syria agree to a truce.

The Israelis now turn their attention to PLO and Syrian forces inside West Beirut, laying siege to the city for 70 days. With the assistance of their Phalangist allies, the Israelis hope to drive the PLO out of West Beirut and reunite the capital.

West Beirut is subjected to periodic Israeli bombardment from the air, sea, and land. Eventually PLO leader Yasir Arafat agrees to evacuate his fighters from the city.

Beginning on 21 August and ending on 1 September approximately 8,000 Palestinian guerrillas, 2,600 PLA regulars, and 3,600 Syrian troops leave West Beirut for Cyprus, Tunisia and Syria.

However, the Israelis are not convinced that all PLO guerrillas have left the city. They estimate that about 2,000 remain in Palestinian refugee camps in West Beirut, along with a large cache of arms.

The Israeli invasion and subsequent siege of Beirut has left about 17,825 Lebanese dead and 30,000 wounded. Hundreds of Syrian soldiers have been killed and over 1,000 wounded. About 1,000 Palestinian guerrillas have perished and 7,000 have been captured. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have sustained 344 dead and over 2,000 wounded.

Meanwhile, on 23 August the Phalange Party leader Bashir Gemayel is elected president of Lebanon. Gemayel has the backing of the Israelis.

Three weeks later, on Tuesday, 14 September, Gemayel dies along with 26 others when a bomb levels the Phalange Party offices in Ashrafieh in East Beirut. Initially it is thought that a Palestinian had planted the bomb. Eventually a Lebanese Christian Maronite and alleged Syrian agent is identified as the assassin. Hobeika is later accused by his former security chief, Robert Hatem, of conspiring in Gemayel's assassination in order to serve Syrian interests.

Gemayel's younger brother, Amin, becomes the new president.

On the night of 14 September the Israeli's decide to enter West Beirut in order to, in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, "protect the Muslims from the vengeance of the Phalangists."

However, Israeli Minister of Defence Ariel Sharon and IDF Chief-of-staff Lieutenant-general Rafael Eitan agree that the IDF will not enter the Palestinian refugee camps in area. Instead, and according to an official operational order, "searching and mopping up the camps will be done by the Phalangists/ Lebanese Army."

Eitan then flies to Beirut and tells the Phalangists that they will be responsible for the operation within the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Hobeika, who by now is the Lebanese Forces' principal military liaison officer to the IDF, is to be the overall commander of the Phalangist militia.

On the morning of Wednesday, 15 September Ariel Sharon arrives in Beirut. He approves Eitan's arrangement with the Phalangists then meets with the Phalangists personally to confirm the plan. Sharon then returns to Israel.

According to Hobeika's former bodyguard, Robert Hatem, Sharon orders Hobeika "to guard against any desperate move, should his men run amuck." However, Hatem claims, "Hobeika gave his own instructions to his men: 'Total extermination ... camps wiped out.'"

By the morning of Thursday, 16 September the IDF has completed the occupation of West Beirut. The Sabra and Shatila camps are surrounded and sealed. The Sabra camp covers an area of about 300x200 metres and is thought to contain about 56,000 people. The Shatila camp is about 500x500 metres in size.

At about 6 p.m. that evening the Israelis allow about 200 Phalangist militia under the command of Hobeika to enter the camps. Over the next 38 hours, the Phalangists brutally massacre hundreds and possibly thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates a death toll of 2,750. Palestinians claim that up to 3,000 are killed. Other estimates place the figure from 700 to 800 and up to 1,700. Many women are also raped. The Phalangists encounter few PLO guerrillas, face little resistance, and suffer few casualties.

Hobeika does not enter the camps himself but directs his troops from an Israeli forward command post on the roof of a five-story building overlooking parts of the area. Israeli officers supervise the operation from the same forward command post. The IDF also monitors the Phalangist radio network and fires flares from mortars and aircraft to light the area throughout the night.

When one of the Phalangists in the camps radios Hobeika to report that he is holding 50 women and children and ask what he should do with them, Hobeika is overheard by an IDF officer to reply, "This is the last time you're going to ask me a question like that. You know exactly what to do."

On Friday, 17 September, following reports of the killing of up to 300 guerrillas and civilians in the Shatila camp, the IDF orders a temporary halt to the operation. However, the Phalangists are allowed to remain in the camps and later the same day are given the go-ahead to "continue action, mopping up the empty camps" and to use bulldozers to demolish buildings. Hobeika orders that the bulldozers be used to try to cover up evidence of the massacre.

Ariel Sharon first learns of the killings in the camps on the Friday evening during a telephone conversation with Chief-of-staff Eitan.

Meanwhile, having heard of the killings, the US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Morris Draper, sends a message to Sharon.

"You must stop the acts of slaughter, they are horrifying," the message says. "I have a representative in the camp counting the bodies. You should be ashamed. The situation is absolutely appalling. They're killing children! You have the field completely under your control and are therefore responsible for that area."

The massacre continues until about 8 a.m. on Saturday, 18 September, when the Phalangists leave the camps.

Soon after, a semblance of calm is restored in Beirut by the intervention of a multinational force sent in to separate the IDF from the city's Lebanese population.

Meanwhile, the massacre at the camps is roundly condemned throughout the world. In Israel, Sharon comes under stinging criticism from his own parliament.

On 25 September 300,000 demonstrators gather in Tel Aviv to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Menahem Begin and Sharon as well as the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the massacre.

Defending himself, Sharon says, "Not for a moment did we imagine that they (the Phalangists) would do what they did. They had received harsh and clear warnings. Had we for one moment imagined that something like this would happen we would never have let them into the camp."

On 16 December the UN General Assembly condemns the massacre and declares it to be an "act of genocide."

1983 - A subsequent Israeli judicial commission of inquiry (the Kahan Commission) finds that "the massacre at Sabra and Shatila was carried out by a Phalangist unit, acting on its own but its entry was known to Israel."

"No Israeli was directly responsible for the events which occurred in the camps," the report of the commission says. "But the Commission asserted that Israel had indirect responsibility for the massacre since the IDF held the area. (Prime Minister) Begin was found responsible for not exercising greater involvement and awareness in the matter of introducing the Phalangists into the camps. Mr Sharon was found responsible for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge when he approved the entry of the Phalangists into the camps as well as not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed. (Minister of Foreign Affairs) Shamir erred by not taking action after being alerted by Communications Minister Zippori. Chief of Staff Eitan did not give the appropriate orders to prevent the massacre. The Commission recommended that the Defence Minister resign, that the Director of Military Intelligence not continue in his post and other senior officers be removed."

Sharon had "made a grave mistake when he ignored the danger of acts of revenge and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population in the refugee camps."

"Responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defence for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps," the commission finds.

"In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defence for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry into the camps. These blunders constitute the non-fulfilment of a duty with which the Defence Minister was charged. ...

"We have found ... that the Minister of Defence bears personal responsibility."

Full copy of the Kahan Commission report.

Sharon subsequently resigns as Minister of Defence, although he remains in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

On 17 May Lebanon and Israel agree to the conditions for the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, provided Syria also withdraws its forces. However, Syria rejects the proposal and instead founds the National Salvation Front, a coalition of Druzes, Shias, Sunnis, and Christian groups that together control more of Lebanon than the central government.

The security situation in the country once again begins to deteriorate. Fighting between Phalangist and Druze militia breaks out in Shuf Mountains southeast of Beirut after the IDF withdraws from the region in August.

The Phalangists are defeated and up to 1,500 Christian civilians killed and 62 Christian villages demolished. The Lebanese Army subsequently contains the Druze, although only following military intervention by the US.

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks escalate. On 18 April 1983 a suicide attack at the US Embassy in West Beirut kills 63. On 23 October 1983 a truck bomb explosion at the headquarters of US and French forces kills 298.

Shia militias group together to form Hezbollah (Party of God) and receive backing from Iran and Syria.

1984 - In February the Lebanese Army loses control of West Beirut to the Shia Amal militia. The Green Line partitioning the capital is reestablished.

When the multinational force withdraws from the country because of security concerns Syria again becomes the dominant force. The 17 May Agreement is revoked and a new government sworn in to implement a fresh agreement aimed at national unity. The plan fails dismally. While fighting continues between the Druze, Shia and Sunni militia, Israel launches air raids against Palestinian guerrilla camps.

1985 - On 16 February the IDF begins a staged withdrawal from its remaining positions in Lebanon, moving troops from the northern front at the Awwali River to south of the Litani River. The Lebanese Army fills the vacuum but is unable to prevent the onset of fighting between Phalangists and a Palestinian-Druze-Shia coalition. The Phalangists are defeated and Christian civilians forced to flee the area.

In March Hobeika organises an attempt to assassinate Hezbollah leader Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, reportedly at the request of the CIA, which blames Fadlallah for the 1983 bombing of the headquarters of US and French forces that killed 298.

The plot ends in a massacre of innocents, with the car bomb planted near Fadlallah's house killing dozens of bystanders but leaving its target unharmed. Following this bloody failure the CIA reputedly terminates its relationship with Hobeika.

On 6 June the IDF completes its withdrawal from all but a 15 km-wide "security zone" along the southern border, equivalent to about 8% of the Lebanese land mass.

Meanwhile in Beirut, President Amin Gemayel attempts a rapprochement with Syria, promising concessions to Muslims in return for security for Christians. The move is opposed by a small faction of the Phalangist militia, leading to a showdown that results in Hobeika being appointed as the overall commander of the Lebanese Forces on 10 May.

Hobeika now begins to scheme to assume the Lebanese presidency, travelling openly to Damascus in September to court Syrian support.

In West Beirut fighting between Muslim factions and the Palestinians once again sees the Sabra and Shatila camps become a locus of violence. According to the UN, 635 Palestinians are killed and 2,500 wounded during this round of fighting.

At the end of the year Syria convinces Hobeika, along with the leaders of Lebanon's two other main militias - Nabih Birri of the Shia Amal and Walid Jumblatt of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, to sign the 'Tripartite Accord' to end the war and legitimise Syria's presence in Lebanon.

However, President Amin Gemayel refuses to endorse the accord, forcing Hobeika out of his post as commander of the Lebanese Forces and, on 16 January 1986, after a battle from which Hobeika barely escapes with his life, into exile in Damascus via Paris.

Though in exile from Beirut, Hobeika will return to Lebanon to head a pro-Syrian Lebanese Forces faction based in Zahlah, which is now occupied by the Syrians.

Funding for Hobeika's militia comes from Syria, and from the proceeds of criminal activities like drug running and kidnapping for ransom.

1986 - On 27 September a 300-man force loyal to Hobeika launch an unsuccessful attack across the Green Line from Muslim West Beirut against the rival Phalangists in East Beirut. Back in Zahlah, Hobeika will later survive an assassination attempt organised by the same Phalangist rivals.

1987 - On 22 February Syria takes decisive action to stop the anarchy in Lebanon, sending in 7,500 troops in an "open-ended" operation designed to halt militia rule.

On 1 June the Lebanese prime minister is assassinated.

1988 - Syria objects to the extension of President Amin Gemayel's term in office for another two years. When General Michel Aoun, a Christian, is made prime minister and forms a government, the Syrians set up their own rival Muslim government in West Beirut.

1989 - Aoun launches a "war of liberation" against the Syrians and their allies. Meanwhile, the Arab League appoints a committee to try to find a solution to the conflict, a move that leads to a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia.

On 4 November Lebanese parliamentarians approve the Ta'if Agreement for a National Reconciliation Charter. Under the charter the Lebanese constitution will be amended to give Muslims increased power. Parliamentary seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims and the Shia speaker becomes part of the executive, along with the Maronite president and Sunni prime minister.

The agreement also states that "Lebanon is linked to Syria by distinctive ties deriving strength from kinship, history, and common interests."

Under the supervision of the Syrian military, the parliament elects Syrian sympathiser Elias Hrawi as president.

1990 - In October Aoun is forced into exile in Paris.

Lebanon's 14 years of civil war finally comes to an end on 13 October.

The war has left 144,240 killed (including 129,816 civilians), 197,506 wounded, and 17,415 missing.

3,641 car bombs have been detonated during the war, killing 4,386 people and wounding 6,784.

950,000 have left the country, and 800,000 have been internally displaced.

The country is in political and economic ruins, with the destruction infrastructure and buildings estimated to total US$25 billion to US$30 billion.

Thousands of Syrian troops occupy the Lebanon. Between 160,000 and 225,000 Palestinians remain in the country. Hezbollah guerrillas continue to operate in the south, launching attacks on positions in the Israeli-controlled "security zone."

Meanwhile, under Syrian patronage Hobeika returns to Beirut and is made a minister in the Lebanese cabinet.

1991 - In May the country's various militias are disbanded, although Hezbollah continues to operate in the south.

Syria's grip on Lebanon is further tightened with the imposition of several bilateral agreements, including 'The Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination' of May, and 'The Defence and Security Agreement' of August.

In October Hobeika is appointed as minister of the displaced. His portfolio is extended to minister of social affairs and the displaced in November 1992.

1992 - Lebanon holds its first parliamentary election since the outbreak of the civil war. Hobeika wins a seat in the parliament, and will again at elections held in 1996.

1995 - Syria pressures the Lebanese parliament to ignore the constitutional limit of a single presidential term, and extend Hrawi's presidency by three years. At the same time, Syria engineers the appointment of Lebanese expatriate Rafiq al-Hariri as prime minister.

In May Hobeika is appointed as minister of electricity and water resources, a position he will hold for over three years. However, his time in this role is marked by frequent power shortages. He will also be accused of massive corruption.

1998 - In October a new pro-Syrian administration is installed. General Emile Lahoud is elected as president by the parliament. Dr Selim al-Hoss is the prime minister of the new government.

1999 - Hobeika's former bodyguard and confidant Robert Hatem (AKA 'Cobra') publishes his autobiography, 'From Israel to Damascus'. As well as providing details of Hatem's activities with the Phalange, the book documents Hobeika's "betrayal of his country to Syria." The book is banned in Lebanon. Hobeika threatens to sue anyone who uses the information.

Among other incidents, the book links Hobeika to the 1978 assassination of Tony Franjieh, the assassinations of several rival figures in the Lebanese Forces, an attempt to assassinate Druze militia leader Walid Jumblatt, the execution of four Iranian diplomats abducted by the Lebanese Forces in 1982, the assassination of Bashir Gemayel in the 1982, and the attempted assassination of Selim al-Hoss in 1984.

2000 - In February the Lebanese judiciary opens an investigation into the 1984 attempt to assassinate Selim al-Hoss. The investigation is expected to implicate Hobeika.

Hobeika is already under scrutiny in investigations opened into the 1978 assassination of Tony Franjieh and a 1985 car bomb attack that severely injured Sidon MP Mustafa Saad and killed his daughter, Natasha. An investigation will also be opened into corruption at the ministry of electricity and water resources.

On 23 May the IDF withdraws completely from the "security zone" in the south of Lebanon, finally ending its 22-year occupation of the country. At the same time, Israel severs all contact with Hobeika, believing him to be a Syrian agent.

Coincidentally, Syria also begins to back away from Hobeika, withdrawing their patronage and protection.

With his reputation in tatters following the publication of 'Form Israel of Damascus' and the broadcast in Britain of a BBC documentary on the Sabra and Shatila massacres, Hobeika loses his seat in elections held in August.

2001 - In June Syria withdraws its troops from Beirut and the surrounding area. However, about 20,000 Syrian troops remain in Lebanon.

Further trouble also begins to brew for Hobeika on 18 June when 28 relatives of victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre file charges against Ariel Sharon in Belgium, using a law that allows Belgium courts to try crimes against humanity no matter where they have been committed.

Hobeika quickly announces that he is willing to testify before the court, saying he has "evidence of what actually happened ... which will throw a completely new light on the Kahan Commission report." However, what this evidence is will never be revealed.

Following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US, Hobeika contacts the CIA and offers his assistance in locating Imad Mughniyah, the head of Hezbollah's former foreign operations branch and one of the US Government's most wanted terrorists.

Hobeika also contemplates emigrating from Lebanon.

2002 - On 22 January Hobeika confirms that he will provide evidence at the trial of Sharon in Belgium.

Two days later, on 24 January, he is killed by a car bomb outside his home in Beirut. A previously unknown group called 'Lebanese for a Free and Independent Lebanon' takes credit for the killing, but are never heard of again.

Some believe the bomb was planted by the Israel to prevent Hobeika testifying at the Belgian inquiry. Others think that Syria was responsible. Hezbollah, Palestinians, and Hobeika's enemies within the Lebanese Forces and the Phalange have also been identified as suspects.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese parliament enacts legislation banning Palestinians from owning property in Lebanon.


2003 - On 12 February the Belgium Supreme Court rules that Sharon and others can be indicted for the Sabra and Shatila massacre. However, the case is dismissed after legislative changes alter the circumstances under which the Belgium courts can bring charges against foreign nationals.

2005 - When former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is assassinated in Beirut on 13 February domestic and international pressure mounts on Syria to finally withdraw all its troops from Lebanon.

On 26 April the withdrawal is completed, bringing to an end Syria's 29 years of continuous military presence. However, some Syrian intelligence agents remain in the country.


This profile has focused on Elie Hobeika. It could just have well dealt with any other of a number of Lebanese warlords. People like Pierre Gemayel, Bashir Gemayel, Amin Gemayel, Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea, and Nabih Birri.

According to a report, when Walid Jumblatt asked Syrian Vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam why he was negotiating with "this murderer" (Hobeika), Khaddam replied, "Who in Lebanon is not a murderer?"

It's a sad but true statement, as the 144,240 killed during the Lebanese Civil War testify. It's worse still that most of these people probably died for no good cause, just the greed, prejudice and blind ambition of a rabble of immature boys pretending to be men.