A country of the Middle East at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Syria on the north and east and Israel on the south.
Lebanon is some 200 km (125 miles) from north to south and 50–80 km (30–50 miles) from east to west. On the narrow coastal plain summers are sunny and warm; fruits of all kinds grow well. Inland the ground rises quickly, to two ranges of high mountains, where there is much winter frost and snow. Between them is the fertile Bekaa Valley, well suited to agriculture, while much of the eastern boundary resembles steppe.
Agriculture, industry, and commerce have been devastated by the civil war; however, food and drink, machinery, and textiles are among the major exports. Fuels have to be imported. Beirut, formerly the Middle East's leading centre of finance, trade, and tourism, faces a period of reconstruction: the stock market was reopened in 1995.
Much of present‐day Lebanon formed part of Phoenicia, including the important trading towns of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Arvad, which retained their importance under Roman rule. Mount Lebanon was a refuge for persecuted minorities such as the Christian Maronites, who settled there from the 7th century ad, and the Muslim Druze, who occupied the southern part of the mountain from the 11th century. After the Arab conquest during the 7th century Arab tribesmen settled in Lebanon. Successive governments in the region usually left the people of the mountain to manage their own affairs and contented themselves with exercising authority on the coastal plain. Part of the Ottoman empire from the 16th century, it became a French mandate after World War I. A Lebanese republic was set up in 1926. The country was occupied (1941–45) by Free French forces, supported by Britain.
Independence was achieved in 1945. Growing disputes between Christians and Muslims, exacerbated by the presence of Palestinian refugees, undermined the stability of the republic. Hostility between the differing Christian and Muslim groups led to protracted civil war and to the armed intervention (1976) by Syria. The activities of the Palestine Liberation Organization brought large‐scale Israeli military invasion and led to Israeli occupation (1978) of a part of southern Lebanon. A UN peacekeeping force attempted unsuccessfully to set up a buffer zone. A full military invasion (1982) by Israel led to the evacuation of the Palestinians. A massacre by the Phalangist Christian militia in Israeli‐occupied West Beirut of Muslim civilians in the Chabra and Chatila refugee camps brought a redeployment of UN peacekeeping forces. Syria again intervened in 1987, but many problems remained unresolved. Israel established a South Lebanon Army (SLA), and there were 20 Israeli air‐raids during 1988. In March 1989 the Maronite Christian General Aoun launched an all‐out war against Syrian troops. In October 1989 the Arab League successfully negotiated an Accord in Taif, Saudi Arabia, whereby the Maronite dominance in government would be reduced. This Taif Accord was reluctantly accepted, and a frail peace established under continued Syrian protection, which was formalized by a treaty in May 1991. In 1992 the first general elections since 1972 were largely boycotted by Maronite Christian parties, enabling the Muslim parties, Amal and the fundamentalist Hezbollah, to gain the most seats. Rafik Hariri became Prime Minister and began to implement a programme of economic reconstruction. Tension in southern Lebanon continued, with attacks by the radical, Iran‐backed Hezbollah guerrillas against the Israeli‐supported SLA. In 1996 there were further violent clashes in southern Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israeli troops. Thousands of civilians fled following Israeli air attacks. Hariri was replaced as Prime Minister by Salim al‐Hoss in 1998; however, he returned to power after the 2000 elections. He resigned in 2004 and was succeeded by Omar Karameh. In 2005 Hariri was assassinated. Suspected Syrian involvement led to large demonstrations and the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon. An anti‐Syrian coalition won legislative elections later that year and Fouad Siniora became Prime Minister.
10,230 sq km (3950 sq miles)
1 Lebanese pound = 100 piastres
Shia Muslim 32.0–41.0%; Sunni Muslim 21.0–27.0%; Maronite Christian 16.0–24.5%; Druze 7.0%; Armenian Christian 4.0%; Greek Catholic 3.0–4.0%; Greek Orthodox 5.0–6.5%
Lebanese Arab 71.2%; Palestinian Arab 12.1%; Armenian 6.8%; Kurdish 6.1%
Arabic (official); Armenian; French; Kurdish
UN; Arab League; Non‐Aligned Movement