Situation in the Country


Capital: Beirut
Area: 10,452 sq km
Population: 4 million 
Ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
Religion: Muslim 59.7% (Shia, Sunni, Ismaili, Druze and Alawite communities), 39% Christian (including Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic , Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3% (there are 17 recognized religious sects)
Infant mortality: 28 per thousand (Italy 5.7 per thousand)
Life expectancy: 69 Males, 74 Females (Italy: 76 Male, 82 Female)
Literacy: 83% (Italy: 98%)
Population below poverty line: 28%.

Lebanon is a country in the Middle East overlooking the Mediterranean. It is bordered to the north and east by Syria and on the south by Israel. The origins of civilization in the territories of Lebanon go back centuries. From its shores, the Phoenicians were leaving with loads of merchandise bound for the entire Mediterranean, witnessing a mercantile tradition and a flair for business that are still characteristic elements of the Lebanese population and define it as a historic merchant bridge between east and west (up to years' 70 the country was known as the "Switzerland of the Middle East"). The state of Lebanon was founded in December 1920 as a French protectorate consisting of the territories of Mount Lebanon, in addition to north and south areas originally belonging to Greater Syria.

The effective independence from French colonial power was proclaimed only in 1941. At the end of this period Lebanon was governed by the pro-Western Christian Maronite. In the fifties there has been a growing opposition of the Muslims against Christian President Chamoun who tried to amend the Constitution in order to secure the renewal of the mandate. In 1958 the two factions broke out in a bloody civil war that ended with the intervention of 10 thousand U.S. Marines in support of the Christian government. After the "pacification" of the country, Shiite Muslims are progressively excluded and marginalized from political life and from the socio-economic development. In 1975 there has been a new civil war. Moreover, there was the wave of Palestinian refugees caused by Israeli wars. In September 1970 (Black September) Israel expelled Palestinian from Jordan. In 1975 these people fled to Lebanon that reached that year the number of 300,000 refugees. The geographical proximity to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict makes difficult to not participate in the fighting. In fact, Lebanon becomes the refuge of the PLO's Palestinian guerrillas (the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine), whose goal was the liberation of Palestine through armed struggle. The inefficiency of the Lebanese army, unable to contain Palestinian terrorism, facilitates the creation of a state within a state in which Lebanon does not control the actions of the Palestinians involved in the conflict.

The first Israeli - Lebanese war starts on 11 March 1978 when the PLO leads a commando attack in Israel, causing many deaths and injuries among the local population. Israel responded by occupying southern Lebanon. On 19 March, the UN Security Council adopted Resolutions 425 and 426, in which he recalled Israel to immediately cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It was also decided to send a peacekeeping force between Lebanese and Israeli called UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). In June of the same year Israel decides to evacuate Lebanon, leaving it in the hands of the paramilitary group called Christian militia in Lebanon.

In 1982, following the assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Israel decides to launch a wide-ranging occupation of Lebanon that extends up to West Beirut. This was besieged for three years. It is in this context that Iran, in agreement with Syria, decided to send the Pasdaran (Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) to train the Shiite Muslims. This is how the Lebanese Shiite movement Amal (backed by Syria) and Hezbollah (supported by Iran) are born and they are also in conflict with each other. In 1985, Israel carried out a partial withdrawal from Lebanon while maintaining control of the southern area.

The civil war ended between 1989 and 1990 with the formation of a government of national reconciliation headed by Rachid Karami, the dissolution of the militias and the assurance by Parliament of an amnesty for all crimes committed during the civil war.

The year 2000 was an important year for Lebanon, with the evacuation by the troops of Israel and the death of President Assad of Syria, a staunch supporter of the anti Israeli intervention in Lebanese internal affairs. In June 2005 he held the first elections without Syrian troops in Lebanon; he wins the anti-Syrian camp in spite of the influence of Damascus, which is still strong in the country.

Hezbollah still controls southern Lebanon and on July 11, 2006 starts an attack against Israeli soldiers in Israeli territory destabilizing the political situation. Israel responds by bombing again the south of Lebanon and other major cities in the rest of the country, killing thousands of civilians in just over a month. Hezbollah leads attacks against civilian infrastructure in the North of Israel. The international diplomatic activity leads to resolution no. 1701 of 11 August 2006, which establishes a respite from 14 August 2006.

The financial statements after the war in a country of 4 million inhabitants is dramatic:

- Approximately 150,000 deaths.
- 17,000 missing.
- 600,000 people have been displaced within the country.
- 900,000 emigrants.

Today Lebanon is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliament. It is customary law that the President of the Republic is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister is a Sunni Muslim and the Chamber of Deputies is a Shiite. The executive power is held by the Government whose members are appointed by the President of the Council in agreement with the President of the Republic and with Parliament, as required by the Taef accords of 1989.

The many wars have caused serious damage to infrastructure and buildings and civilians according to a study published in 2008 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), approximately 8% of Lebanon's population lives in extreme poverty so that they can not even afford the goods of the highest need. All this, together with political instability and permanent bickering led to an economic situation characterized by the constant need for international aid to finance the reconstruction and economic recovery, a high budget deficit (about 50 million of debt) and GDP growth which is not constant. Another reason for the poverty problem in Lebanon is given by the low levels of income: the average salary in the country has not been adequate with galloping inflation, which is projected to reach 8% in 2011, and the erosion of consumption.




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