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Following an 11-man Palestinian terrorism attack that killed 35 bus passengers near Tel Aviv, Israel launched a six-day retaliatory campaign in southern Lebanon code-named “Operation Litani” (for the Litani River) on this date in 1978. More than 25,000 Israeli soldiers occupied southern Lebanon with the goals of halting Palestinian shelling of northern Israel, pushing the Palestine Liberation Organization northwards, and strengthening the militias of Lebanese Christians. The PLO’s forces mostly withdrew without fighting (300 PLO fighters were killed), but between 1,000 and 2,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling and bombing, and some 200,000 civilians were displaced or made homeless. Israel used cluster bombs in this war, which provoked condemnation by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. A second, much larger Israel incursion into Lebanon would come four years later. “Lebanon, of course, is a country with great problems. Traditionally, they have religious-national groups or ethnic-national groups. They have the Druses. Even the two Moslem sects, the Sunnis and the Shiites, are apart. Then they have the armed groups. Everybody’s got a private army.” --Menachem Begin
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.