1978 South Lebanon conflict

1978 South Lebanon conflict
Part of the Israeli–Lebanese conflict, the Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon and Lebanese Civil War
PikiWiki Israel 4220 Israel Defense Forces.jpg
Israeli soldiers meeting with Saad Haddad during the operation
DateMarch 14 – 21, 1978

Israeli military victory

  • PLO withdrawal from Southern Lebanon
  • UNIFIL buffer zone established
Israel Israel
Lebanon Free Lebanon Army
Palestine Liberation Organization PLO
Commanders and leaders
Israel Mordechai Gur
Lebanon Saad Haddad
Lebanon Antoine Lahad
Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat
Casualties and losses
18 killed
113 wounded[1]
300–550 combatants killed[1][2][3]
1,100[2][3] to 2,000[4][5] killed in total (both combatants and civilians)
100,000 to 250,000 internally displaced[4][5]

The 1978 South Lebanon conflict (code-named Operation Litani by Israel) was an invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River, carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in 1978 in response to the Coastal Road massacre. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 1,100–2,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, 20 Israelis, the internal displacement of 100,000 to 250,000 people in Lebanon, and the PLO forces retreating north of the Litani River. It led to the creation of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force and an almost complete Israeli withdrawal.


Though it took the form of an Israeli military incursion into Southern Lebanon, Operation Litani was grounded in the long-running Israeli–Palestinian conflict. From 1968 on, the PLO, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other Palestinian groups established a quasi-state in southern Lebanon, using it as a base for raids on civilian targets in northern Israel, as well as worldwide terror attacks on Israeli and other targets. This was exacerbated by an influx of 3,000 PLO militants fleeing a defeat in the Jordanian civil war and regrouping in southern Lebanon. Israel responded with damaging attacks against PLO bases.

During Israeli raids from 1968 to 1977, some of the Palestinian towns and camps in the area were totally leveled. According to estimations, by October 1977 about 300,000 refugees, mainly Shiite Muslims, fled South Lebanon.[6] The PLO-Israeli conflict increased political tensions between Maronite Christians and Druze on the one hand and Muslims on the other, adding to the factors behind the 1975–1990 Lebanese Civil War.[7]

In November 1977, Israel initiated an exchange of fire that led to the death of several people from both sides of the border and finally Israeli bombing of the targets in South Lebanon during which 70 people, mainly Lebanese, were killed.[8]

On March 11, 1978, 11 Fatah members led by the 18-year-old female Dalal Mughrabi travelled from Lebanon and killed an American tourist on the beach. They then hijacked a bus on the Coastal Road near Haifa, and en route to Tel Aviv commandeered a second bus. After a lengthy chase and shootout, 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed and 76 wounded.[9] This massacre was the proximate cause of the Israeli invasion three days later.[10]

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