South Lebanon Army

South Lebanon Army

Infobox War Faction
name=South Lebanon Army
war=1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict
active=Until 2000
leaders= Saad Haddad, Antoine Lahad
area=Southern Lebanon
allies=Israel Defence Force (IDF)
opponents=Hezbollah, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

The South Lebanon Army (SLA), also "South Lebanese Army," ( _ar. جيش لبنان الجنوبي; transliterated: Jaysh Lubnān al-Janūbi. _he. צבא דרום לבנון, צד"ל; transliterated: Tzvá Dróm Levanón, Tzadál) was a Lebanese militia during the Lebanese Civil War. After 1979, the militia operated under the authority of Saad Haddad's Government of Free Lebanon [] . It was supported by Israel during the 1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict to against both PLO and Hezbollah.


In 1976 as a result of the civil war, the Lebanese army began to break up. Major Saad Haddad, commanding an army battalion in the south, broke away from the Lebanese Army and founded a group known as the Free Lebanon Army. The Free Lebanon Army was initially based in the towns of Marjayoun and Qlayaa in southern Lebanon. SLA fought against various groups including the Palestine Liberation Organization, Amal and, after the 1982 Israeli invasion, the newly emerging Hezbollah. While the group was no longer under the direct control of the Lebanese army, from 1976 to 1979, its members were still paid as Lebanese soldiers by the government.The Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 1978 allowed the Free Lebanon Army to gain control over a much wider area in southern Lebanon. On April 18 1979, Haddad proclaimed the area controlled by his force "Independent Free Lebanon". The following day, he was branded a traitor to the Lebanese government and officially dismissed from the Lebanese Army. The Free Lebanon Army was renamed the South Lebanon Army (SLA) in May 1980. Following Haddad's death due to cancer in 1984, he was replaced as leader by Antoine Lahad (a retired lieutenant general). The SLA was composed of Christians, Shiites and Druzes from the areas that it controlled but the officers were mostly Christian. After 1980, the fighting strength of the SLA became progressively more Shiite in composition.

The SLA was closely allied with Israel. It supported the Israelis by combating the PLO in the strip of Southern Lebanon until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. After that, SLA support for the Israelis was mainly by fighting against other Lebanese guerrilla forces led by Hezbollah until 2000 in the Security Zone, the area of the South kept under occupation after the partial Israeli withdrawal in 1985. In return, Israel supplied the organization with arms, uniforms, and other logistical equipment.

The SLA hosted the Christian radio station "Voice of Hope", set up and funded by George Otis, Founder of High Adventure Ministries, Inc. Starting in 1982, the SLA played host to Middle East Television which was also set up, funded and operated by High Adventure Ministries. George Otis gave Middle East Television (METV) to Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson, founder of CBN. On May 2, 2000 Middle East Television relocated to Cyprus.

In 1985 the SLA opened the Khiam detention center in Khiam. It was widely reported that torture was a common tactic and occurred on a large scale in Khiam. Israel rejects any involvement, even though the SLA and Israel were very intertwined at this point in history, and claims that Khiam was the sole responsibility of the SLA: this has been contested by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International [] . The SLA also applied a mandatory military service program where males over 18 living in the Security Zone were forced to serve a whole year as a military recruit. [] The SLA received funding, weapons and logistics from Israel during its entire existence.

During the 1990s, Hezbollah carried out increasingly effective attacks on it, aided in later years by Lebanese army intelligence which had thoroughly penetrated the renegade SLA. These changed circumstances led to a progressive loss of morale and members. By 2000, the SLA was reduced to 1,500 fighters as compared to 3,000 ten years earlier. In its peak during the early 1980s, the SLA was composed of over 5,000 fighters.

Since there were only 1,000 to 1,200 Israeli troops in South Lebanon at one time [] , the SLA carried out a lot of the fighting itself. The SLA also handled all civilian governmental operations in Israel's zone of control.

Collapse and Surrender

While campaigning in 1999 Ehud Barak promised to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon. As Prime Minister of Israel he announced that this withdrawal would be by July 2000. [War on Lebanon Edited by Nubar Hovsepian Sction 4 by Lara Deeb p 61]

In May 2000, Israeli forces handed over some forward positions in the occupied zone to the SLA. As the "chaotic" withdrawal became obvious, civilians from the occupied zone overran SLA positions to return to their villages, while Hezbollah guerrillas quickly took control of the areas the SLA had previously controlled. The SLA in the center of the security zone, collapsed in the face of the crowds and of Hezbollah's rapid advance. [Domont and Charrara, "Le Hezbollah: un mouvement Islamo-nationaliste"]

As Israeli forces withdrew, many SLA militiamen were terrified of being captured (and possibly killed) by Hezbollah guerrillas or vengefull mobs, or being jailed or executed by the Lebanese government. The Lebanese government considered the SLA to be traitors and collaborators, as did Hezbollah and many civilians in the Security Zone.

The next day, SLA positions at the eastern end of the security zone collapsed. Afterward, Israeli forces began a general withdrawal from all areas of the zone. Members of the SLA were told that the border would be closed after the Israelis departed. With the Israeli retreat the SLA quickly collapsed and on Wednesday, 24 May, 2000 the sight of Saad Haddad's statue being dragged through the streets of the Lebanese town of Marjayoun was a sure sign that the South Lebanon Army was gone. [ [ BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | Bitter retreat for the SLA ] ]

Many members, some with their families, fled to Israel, while others gave themselves up to the Lebanese authorities, or were taken prisoner by Hezbollah who handed them over to the police. SLA members captured by Lebanon and Hezbollah were tried by Lebanese military courts for treason. The majority of members of the SLA were Christians and fearing being suspected of offences fled to Israel. A number of members were also granted asylum in European countries, mostly in Germany.Fact|date=February 2007

Hezbollah was also criticised for preventing the arrest of some members of the SLA; it justified this on the grounds that it was in a position to know which of them had been informing. [Palmer-Harek, Judith, "Hezbollah: the Changing Face of Terrorism", London, IB Tauris.] Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak was criticised in Israel by the settler movement on the grounds that his decision to withdraw without consulting his SLA allies led to the rapidity and confusion of its collapse. [ [ Israel's Withdrawal From Lebanon ] ]

By June 2000, three thousand former members of the SLA were in Lebanese government custody. By the end of year, around 2700 of them had been tried in military courts. It has been estimated that one third of the SLA members received one-year sentences and that one third were sentenced to less than a month. Two members of the SLA accused of torture at Al-Khiam prison received life sentences. Twenty one members of the SLA were recommended for death sentences but in each case the military reduced the sentence. Certain individuals were also barred from returning to South Lebanon by a number of years. [cite web| url= | date=6 April 2001| title=Country Reports on Human Rights Practices| accessdate=2006-04-06| publisher=US State Department]

Although many SLA members and families eventually chose to return from Israel to Lebanon after Hezbollah promised they would not be harmed, others accepted Israel's offer of full citizenship and a financial package similar to that granted to new immigrants, and settled permanently in Israel. On April 6 2006, the Israeli Knesset Finance Committee approved the payment of 40,000 shekels per family to SLA veterans to be paid over the course of seven years. [cite web|url=| date=6 April 2006|title=Knesset okays grants to SLA families| accessdate=2006-04-06| publisher=Jerusalem Post]

Israel continues to host the Government of Free Lebanon on whose behalf the SLA operated. The Government of Free Lebanon has operated from Jerusalem since 2000 and still claims to be the true government of Lebanon.

During the war in the southern, SLA lost around 1,000 members while more than 250 Israeli army killed.


* Bregman, Ahron (2002). "Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947". London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2

External links

* [ The Official Website of the South Lebanese Army.]
* [ The website of the Government of Free Lebanon in Exile]
* [ Photos of the withdrawal from BBC]
* [ BBC Article]
* [ The quandary of an SLA amnesty] by Nicholas Blanford, "The Daily Star", August 16 2005.
* [ Analysis: Role of the SLA] by Martin Asser, "The BBC news", 23 May 2000.

ee also

*Israeli Security Zone
*South Lebanon conflict


*"Le Hezbollah: un mouvement Islamo-nationaliste", Frédéric Domont and Walid Charrara, Editions Fayard: Paris, 2004 ISBN 2-213-62009-1

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