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Profile: Arafat in exile
If Ariel Sharon expels Yasir Arafat, it won’t be the first time.
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2003 05:37 GMT
Leaving Lebanon, Arafat's power structure was smashed

If Ariel Sharon expels Yasser Arafat, it will not be the first time.

More than 20 years ago, Sharon forced his long-time foe to leave Beirut.

Arafat, 74, arrived in Lebanon in 1970 as a feisty guerrilla quickly climbing to power among the ranks of the Palestinian resistance, following a brutal battle in neighbouring Jordan. 

The veteran leader moved the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) to south Lebanon where he established a state within a state. Palestinian fighters waged battles against Israel's occupation from Lebanese soil - a severely destabilising factor for a country whose different sects could barely cooperate.

But Arafat continued to pound Israel from the south. Lebanon's sectarian groups, whose cooperation was scant at best, quickly aligned themselves among groups either opposing or supporting Arafat's struggle from Lebanon.

In 1975 the country finally exploded into civil war which raged on until 1990.

Jounieh to Jerusalem

During Arafat's Lebanon adventure, a popular PLO slogan was "the road through Jerusalem leads through Jounieh"  in reference to a northern, coastal Lebanese city.  

In 1978 then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin invaded Lebanon, driving Arafat's fighters into Beirut. Taking advantage of the precarious situation among Lebanese groups, Arafat and his militiamen quickly took control of mainly Muslim west Beirut.

Sharon tried to stamp out
Palestinian fighters in Lebanon

As the PLO continued to wage war from Beirut, then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon led Israeli forces into Lebanon and the heart of the country's once bustling capital.

Arafat took to hiding in different locations across the war-torn city, rarely sleeping in the same place each night.

The veteran leader's militiamen waged battles with their well-honed guerrilla tactics  against the military might of Sharon's forces. Thus was the start of the Arafat-Sharon rivalry, one of the most acrimonious relationships in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As Sharon surpassed limits placed by his government and pounded west Beirut, Arafat and the PLO fighters were trapped. 

A blanket economic blockade deprived tens of thousands of civilians of water and electricity. Food became scarce. And the international community pleaded with Sharon to end his pursuit of Arafat in such a savage manner.

US to the rescue 

Not for the first time, Washington stepped in to save the Palestinian president from Sharon's attacks. In June 1982 US President Ronald Reagan's personal envoy Ambassador Phillip Habib launched negotiations for the departure of Arafat and the PLO.

Some 20 years later Washington would again order Sharon, this time as he served as prime minister, to halt his attacks against Arafat's Ram Allah compound in 2002.

US, French, and Italian forces were deployed in Beirut to facilitate the PLO evacuation. Beirut, a city once described as the "Paris of the Middle East", lay charred. the PLO continued to wage war from Beirut, then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon led Israeli forces into Lebanon and the heart of the country's once bustling capital.

Arafat took to hiding in different locations across the war-torn city, rarely sleeping in the same place each night.

The veteran leader's militiamen waged battles with their well-honed guerrilla tactics  against the military might of Sharon's forces. Thus was the start of the Arafat-Sharon rivalry, one of the most acrimonious relationships in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As Sharon surpassed limits placed by his government and pounded west Beirut, Arafat and the PLO fighters were trapped. 

A blanket economic blockade deprived tens of thousands of civilians of water and electricity. Food became scarce. And the international community pleaded with Sharon to end his pursuit of Arafat in such a savage manner.

US to the rescue 

Not for the first time, Washington stepped in to save the Palestinian president from Sharon's attacks. In June 1982 US President Ronald Reagan's personal envoy Ambassador Phillip Habib launched negotiations for the departure of Arafat and the PLO.

Some 20 years later Washington would again order Sharon, this time as he served as prime minister, to halt his attacks against Arafat's Ram Allah compound in 2002.

US, French, and Italian forces were deployed in Beirut to facilitate the PLO evacuation. Beirut, a city once described as the "Paris of the Middle East", lay charred.

Israeli occupation troops in
Beirut sent to wipe out PLO

In an emotionally charged farewell, Arafat and thousands of PLO fighters sailed to Tunisia on 30 August 1982. Another government-in-exile was established but Arafat's power base was shattered with guerrillas scattered throughout the Arab world.

After almost a quarter of a century in exile, Arafat returned to the occupied West Bank in 1994 under the Oslo Accords which established autonomy in parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Old foes

In a 2001 interview Sharon admitted that he regretted not killing Arafat in Beirut.

The Israeli Prime Minister again placed Arafat under siege in the Palestinian leader's Ram Allah compound last year during the latest Intifada. Arafat failed to attend the Arab League summit's meeting in Beirut that year.

Although Sharon said he would allow Arafat to leave as long as he avoided "incitements", several Arab capitals sent the Palestinian president warnings they would not welcome him in their capitals.

For obvious reasons, the Lebanese were particularly tense over this issue.

So Arafat did not attend the meeting and continues to reside in Ram Allah. 

Last year when the siege of his Ram Allah compound began he definatly told the world he would rather die a martyr than be exiled. 

History has shown that Arafat is strongest when he is under siege - his guerrilla fighter instincts emerge. This time it is unlikely to be different.

Source:
Aljazeera
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