By Nicholas Blanford
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Additional info for Killing Mr Lebanon. The Assassination of Rafik Hariri and Its Impact on the Middle East
Gemayel says he learned of Hariri’s proposal but ignored it and nothing more was said. Abdo, however, insists that the offer was not serious and that the tale was an example of Hariri’s political immaturity. 38 ‘It was a joke. He was a beginner in politics at that time. 40 Syria, meanwhile, was reasserting itself in Beirut. In February 1987, some 7,000 Syrian troops entered the city for the first time since Israel’s 34 Killing Mr Lebanon invasion five years earlier. The Syrians stamped out fighting between warring militias, and a semblance of calm descended over the western half of the capital.
Assad deployed an armoured division to crush the protests, and dozens were rumoured to have been killed and many more arrested. The hostility shown by the inhabitants of eastern Syria in 1991 toward foreign aggression against their Iraqi neighbours was a foretaste of what was to come when America launched its second war against Iraq 15 years later. Assad was rewarded for his commitment to the coalition by tacit US approval for Syria and the Lebanese Army units loyal to Elias Hrawi to move against the Aoun enclave, expelling the general from Baabda and reuniting the two halves of Beirut.
The savagery of the conflict reached its apogee in a series of brutal massacres in late 1975 and 1976 during a bloody process of cantonisation that cemented the sectarian fissures running through the country. By March 1976, the Christian militias were losing ground to the National Movement. They were driven eastward from their stronghold in central Beirut and their leftist enemies were advancing northward into Christian areas of Mount Lebanon. In neighbouring Syria, developments in Lebanon were being closely scrutinised by Hafez al-Assad, the shrewd, patient, yet ruthless, 45-yearold president.