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8th Infantry Brigade (Lebanon)

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Title: 8th Infantry Brigade (Lebanon)  
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Subject: Lebanese Armed Forces, War of the Camps, 8th Brigade
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8th Infantry Brigade (Lebanon)

The 8th Infantry Brigade was formed in 1983; Michel Aoun was appointed the first brigade commander. Being the strongest, best equipped and best trained unit in the Lebanese army, the 8th brigade was regarded as the most elite unit in the 1980s. It included three mechanized infantry battalions equipped with 90 M113 armored personal carriers, an armor tank battalion equipped with 34 M48 A1 tanks, a field artillery battalion of 18 towed M1 155mm howitzers and a battery of (12) 120 mm mortars and a support logistical battalion. It consisted of 2,200 soldiers with a the Lebanese internal security forces positions in the southern suburb and western part of Beirut. The 8th Brigade was deployed to recapture these positions by force. During this period, with the sudden withdrawal of the Israeli army from Mount Lebanon to the Southern Lebanese region, the pro-Syrian fighters mainly composed of Palestinian & Druze militias supported by Syrian army tanks and artillery stormed the Christian villages in the Bhamdoun & Chouf regions, forcing their inhabitants to flee the atrocity while seeking refuge in the Christian village of Deir Kamar. The 8th Brigade was once again deployed in Souk el Gharb ridge, to block the advancement of the pro-Syrian militias from reaching deeper into the Christian zones and threatening the ministry of Defense in Yarze, as well as, the Presidential Palace in Baabda. The 8th Brigade fiercely defended a 15 miles front, turning back numerous attempts to take over the remainder of the Christian zones.

From 1983 through 1984, the 8th Brigade bore the brunt of the battles, instigated by the Syrian regime to promote its control over Lebanon amid the failure of Lebanese-Israeli peace talks.

In June 1984, all parties agreed on an ultimate cease-fire, in order to form a national government. General Michel Aoun was named Army Commander; Colonel Salim Kallas, who achieved an outstanding performance as deputy chief of staff of the 8th Brigade, was appointed the new Brigade Commander.

From 1984 to 1985, in the wake of a political Lebanese crisis, the Syrian regime tried to impose constitutional amendments by using the pro-Syrian militias to infiltrate the lines of the autonomous Christian zones. The 8th Brigade’s mission was to halt the Syrian regime involvement and to stop pro-Syrian militias’ attacks by defending the Christian zones.

On January 15, 1986, the 8th Brigade was ordered to contain the schismatic internal fighting inside the Lebanese forces upon the signature of the so-called “Tripartite Accord” in Damascus by Elie Hobeika commander of the Christian Lebanese forces, the Islamic pro-Syrian militias and the Syrian regime. Samir Geagea, deputy chief of the Lebanese forces opposed the agreement and led a coup to remove Elie Hobeika from his command. Elie Hobeika conceded to hand over his authority to Samir Geagea and to leave the Christian zones. The 8th Brigade strived to safely remove Elie Hobeika and his men from their headquarters in East Beirut to the ministry of defense in Yarze, in order to be deported to the Christian town of Zahle in the Bekaa valley, a Syrian dominated area. After ten days of Elie Hobeika’s deportation, the Syrian National Social Party fighters supported by Syrian army tanks and field artillery devastated Lebanese army positions in Northern Metn Front occupying the Hills overlooking Bickfaya, home village of President Amine Gemayel. The 8th Brigade was ordered to swiftly counterattack and block the Syrian National Social Party fighters from progressing deeper towards Bickfaya. After three days of fierce fighting the Brigade stemmed the advance, restored army defensive lines, and drove the Syrian National Social Party fighters to their original positions in Dhour Choueir village.

From 1986 to 1988, the 8th Brigade was once again deployed on the Souk Gharb Front to face the resurging Druze militia’s hostilities backed up by Syrian army tanks and artillery. The confrontation devolved into a costly war of attrition placing great strain on President Gemayel’s regime to accept a Syrian political deal. In November 1988, President Amine Gemayel’s term in office ended without the election of a new President. Gemayel relinquished his authority to a transition government formed of the members of the “Army Supreme Military Council” headed by General Michel Aoun as Prime Minister.

On March 14, 1989, the internal political challenge to elect a President reached its climax, the Syrian threat widened its assault by striking hard on urban Christian areas. To halt the growing Syrian interference, General Aoun declared “the liberation war”. The 8th Brigade was charged to face any Syrian new involvement in the Christian zones. The fighting was disrupted by periods of calmness and a series of failed cease-fire and endless negotiations for peace settlements. In August 1989, in the midst of this restive period, the Army Command decided to pull out the 8th Brigade from the Souk el Gharb Front.

On August 13, 1989, following three days of continuous Syrian field artillery shelling to suppress army defenses and to neutralize army facilities, large numbers of heavy-equipped Druze fighters and leftist militias attacked the Souk el Gharb Front. The Druze militia, reinforced by T-54 soviet tanks and covered by heavy artillery shelling, occupied the high ground of “ Keyfoun’s Fortress“ and penetrated other parts of the Souk el Gharb Front attempting to descend the ridge towards the Presidential Palace. The 8th Brigade was redeployed to restore the lines and to push out the Druze’s advancement. After a severe daylong fight, the Druze were demoralized by the on rushing 8th Brigade’s infantry troops and armored tanks. The Druze fighters were “routed” in full flight out of the occupied areas and at five o’clock in the evening their defeat was total. Local and international Newspapers, Radio and TV stations blared out the news of this battle as a great victory for General Salim Kallas and his brave soldiers. In January 1990, upon the election of Elias Hraoui for Presidency according to The Taef Agreement, a struggle arose inside the Christian autonomous zones. Samir Geagea commander of the Lebanese forces intended to overthrow the antagonistic rival Prime Minister General Michel Aoun for refusing the “Taef Agreement”. In support of Prime Minister Michel Aoun, the 8th Brigade took control of the Southern and Northern Metn regions away from the Samir Geagea forces. As a result of the retreat of Samir Geagea’s forces to the Kesrwan region; the 8th Brigade deployed its troops to defensive positions on a separation 30 miles front between the Northern Metn and the Keserwan.

On October 13, 1990 the Syrian Army, given an international green light, invaded the last of the autonomous Lebanese zones controlled by Prime Minister General Michel Aoun to end his “Rebellion” and to put in office President Elias Hraoui. President Elias Hraoui was elected in November 1989, according to the “Taef Agreement” ratified by the Lebanese Parliament in an uncommon session held in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to end the Lebanese Civil War. Following the Syrian invasion a political transition occurred, Elias Hraoui assumed his full presidential authority, General Aoun was exiled to France and General Salim Kallas was removed from his command on November 16, 1990.

In conclusion, from 1983 to 1990, the 8th Brigade made its reputation in mounting offensive operations based on mobility, speed and surprise. The 8th Brigade won its fame in a string of victorious battles, where it suffered numerous casualties. General Salim Kallas proved great professional field experience and assertive skills in leading his troops to success. Throughout his command, his strategy was to maintain the Sovereignty, protect the integrity and bring peace to the Homeland.

See also

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