History of the PLO: The Winds of Heaven
A look at the Lebanese civil war and the events leading to the PLO leaving Beirut.
In the third episode of this six-part series, Al Jazeera looks at the Lebanese civil war and the events that led to the PLO being driven out of Beirut after more than 10 years in Lebanon.
In 1974, the Arab League summit in Rabat stripped Jordan of its traditional role in Palestinian affairs and the PLO was named the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
A few weeks later, Yasser Arafat received a standing ovation at the General Assembly of the UN. He had spoken of a peaceful solution to Palestinian demands for a homeland.
But another Arab country was to be the stage for the next chapter of the Palestinian tragedy.
After its expulsion from Jordan, the PLO had moved its headquarters to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. In April 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon.
Desperate not to repeat the mistakes committed in Jordan, the PLO leader sought to keep his forces out of the Lebanese conflict.
But by 1976 the Palestinians no longer felt able to stay on the sidelines in Lebanon.
In 1982, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon and the Palestinian forces quickly collapsed.
The siege of Beirut had begun. The PLO was encircled. Some Palestinian leaders advised that the PLO should surrender, but Arafat toured the streets of the besieged capital in a bid to raise morale.
After two months of siege and bombardment, an agreement was reached, giving safe passage for the PLO fighters to leave Lebanon on the understanding that Israeli forces would not enter west Beirut.
After more than 10 years in Lebanon, the PLO was finally leaving.
The Israelis accused the PLO of leaving 2,000 of its fighters in Beirut’s refugee camps.
In September 1982, dozens of Lebanese Forces militiamen entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and embarked on a horrific massacre that claimed the lives of some 800 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.
In the eyes of Damascus the much-weakened PLO was ripe for the taking and a defeated Yasser Arafat was of no political consequence.
But the fight for survival was just about to enter a new and bloodier phase.