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Figure 9. Beirut During the Civil War
The fuse that ignited the Civil War was finally lit in February
1975 when the Lebanese Communist Party and other leftists organized
violent demonstrations in Sidon on behalf of fishermen who were
threatened economically by a state-monopoly fishing company. The
Lebanese Army was called in to restore order, but, in the volatile
atmosphere, armed clashes erupted. Muslim politicians protested
that the use of the army was a violation of the demonstrators'
democratic liberties and asked why the army was shooting at
civilians rather than defending Lebanon's borders against Israeli
incursions. Sunni leaders also faulted the channels used for
ordering the army into action. General Ghanim had assumed charge of
the army's conduct and reported directly to President Franjiyah,
Sunni (see Glossary)
Muslim Prime Minister Rashid as Sulh
(also seen as Solh). Meanwhile, thousands of students in mainly
Christian East Beirut demonstrated in support of the army. These
serious splits were exacerbated when Maruf Saad, a Sunni populist
leader, died in March of wounds suffered during the Sidon clashes.
Long-standing concerns that the army would disintegrate if it were
called into action were vindicated when intense fighting broke out
between Maronite and Muslim army recruits.
Data as of December 1987