8th Infantry Brigade (Lebanon)
|8th Infantry Brigade|
|Active||1982 – present|
|Type||Light Mechanized Infantry|
|General||Abdul Karim Hachem|
In the aftermath of the June–September 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, President Amin Gemayel, convinced that a strong and unified national defense force was a prerequisite to rebuilding the nation, announced plans to raise a 60,000-man army organized into twelve brigades (created from existing infantry regiments), trained and equipped by France and the United States. In late 1982, the 8th Infantry Regiment was therefore re-organized and expanded to a brigade group numbering 2,000 men, of whom 80% were Christians from the northern Akkar region, with the remaining 20% were Sunni Muslims.
Structure and organization
The new unit grew from an understrength battalion comprising three rifle companies to a fully equipped mechanized infantry brigade, capable of aligning an armoured battalion equipped with Panhard AML-90 armoured cars, AMX-13 light tanks and 34 US M48A5 main battle tanks (MBTs), three mechanized infantry battalions issued with 90 US M113 armored personnel carriers (APC) and an artillery battalion fielding eighteen US M114 155 mm howitzers, including a battery of twelve French Hotchkiss-Brandt TDA MO-120-RT-61 120mm towed heavy mortars. The brigade also fielded a logistics support battalion, equipped with liaison and transport vehicles such as US M151 1/4-Ton ‘Mutt’ jeeps, Chevrolet C20 and Dodge Ram (1st generation) technicals, plus US M35A2 2½-ton (6x6) military trucks.
In 1983, Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) positions in the southern suburbs and western part of Beirut were occupied by the Druze. 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 el-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 against Druze militia in Suq al Gharb and against leftist militia in West Beirut, instigated by the Syrian government 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 government 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 government involvement and to stop pro-Syrian militias’ attacks by defending the Christian zones.
On 15 January 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 government. 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 government 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. The Eight brigade was the strongest, best equipped, best trained, and most elite unit in the Lebanese Arm. It was regarded as loyal to the president and the government. it consisted of 2,000 men, about 80 percent of whom were Christians from the northern region of Akkar, with the remaining 20 percent Sunni Muslims. It included a mechanized battalion equipped with ninety US-made armored personnel carriers, an armored battalion with thirty-three US-made M-48 tanks, and a missile battalion equipped with eighteen pieces of field artillery. It was stationed at the Presidential Palace at Babda and at the Ministry of Defense in the Yarzak section of Beirut.
On 14 March 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 13 August 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 13 October 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 16 November 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.
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- Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2) (1998), p. 59.
- Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2) (1998), pp. 61-62.
- Lebanon: a country study, page 223.
- Steven J. Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present, Concord Publications, Hong Kong 1998. ISBN 962-361-613-9
- Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Official Website
- Lebanon Military Guide from GlobalSecurity.org
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- Lebanese Military Wish List 2008/2009 - New York Times
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