Eastern Mediterranean 1978: Operation Litani
In March 1978 Palestinians based in southern Lebanon mounted a major terrorist attack on Israel. In response, Israel invaded Lebanon, occupying the area south of the Litani River. After several days fighting, the UN intervened, imposing a ceasefire on both sides and establishing a peace-keeping force (UNIFIL) in the country.
18–19 Jan 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots▲
In 1976 Egyptian president Anwar Sadat sought loans from the World Bank in a bid to relieve Egypt’s debt burden as he sought to liberalize the economy in his Intifah (openness) policy. Abiding by the bank’s terms, he ended state subsidies on flour, rice, and cooking oil and cancelled state employee bonuses and pay increases. The resulting rise in food prices—by up to 50%—led to riots across the country, with 79 killed and over 550 injured. After two days, Sadat revoked the new policies, bringing an end both to the riots and his attempts at drastic reform.
21–24 Jul 1977 Libyan–Egyptian War▲
Relations between Egypt and Libya began souring in the mid-1970s as Egypt began peace talks with Israel, and by 1976 the Egyptians were accusing Libya of sponsoring terrorist activities in their country. In July 1977 the Libyan 9th Tank Battalion crossed the border but was ambushed by Egyptian forces as it attempted to raid Sallum, beginning a three-day border war. Egypt quickly gained the upper hand but was persuaded against a full scale invasion by other Arab states, leading to an armistice between the two nations and a gradual relaxation of tensions.
7 Jan 1978–11 Feb 1979 Iranian Revolution▲
In 1978 riots broke out across Iran, sparked by government denouncement of the exiled Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—a popular critic of monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Fueled by the Shah’s indecisiveness and Khomeini’s use of the media, anti-government protests peaked between August and December, pushing the Shah to leave for exile on 16 January 1979. On 1 February Khomeini returned, assuming official power when the royal reign collapsed ten days later.
7 Feb–8 Oct 1978 Hundred Days War▲
By 1978 attempts by the Bachir Gemayel’s Kateeb Regulatory Forces (Phalange) to forcibly unite the Christian militias of the Lebanese Front (LF) had soured relations with the Syrian-dominated Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) which occupied much of Lebanon, while the Christians had come to regard the Syrians as biased against them. In February another Christian militia, the Army of Free Lebanon, exchanged fire with Syrian ADF troops in Christian East Beirut, with the fighting soon drawing in the Phalange. Further clashes erupted in the following months, eventually leading to a ceasefire in which Syria agreed to withdraw all its troops from East Beirut, to be replaced by Saudi and Sudanese ADF forces (whom the LF accepted as more impartial).
14–28 Mar 1978 Operation Litani▲
On 11 March 1978 Fatah members from Palestine Liberation Organization-controlled southern Lebanon landed on an Israeli beach, hijacking a taxi and a bus and killing 39 people (the Coastal Road massacre). In response, Israel launched Operation Litani three days later, invading and occupying Lebanon south of the Litani River, excepting Tyre. The operation killed some 500 Palestinian militants and at least as many civilians, but most PLO forces had escaped north by the time Israel agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire.
19 Mar 1978 UNIFIL▲
In response to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon five days earlier, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 425 and Resolution 426 on 19 March 1978, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces and establishing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Two days later, Israel ordered a ceasefire, but the Palestine Liberation Organization—the main opposition to Israel in southern Lebanon—did not agree until 28 March (on the argument that they weren’t mentioned in the UN resolutions). UNIFIL forces started arriving on 23 March, allowing the Israelis to complete their withdrawal by mid-June.