Jammoul at 30: Recalling the Birth of Resistance
By: Afif Diab
Published Sunday, September 16, 2012
The very first resistance operations against the Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon were launched by Communists in Beirut, the western Bekaa and Rashaya in September 1982. Now, thirty years later, Al-Akhbar sits down with the fighters who took part in those early decisive battles.
On 20 September 1982, Qasem Muhaidly fired the first shot announcing the start of military operations against the Israeli occupation in the western Bekaa and Rashaya.
He had been waiting for over two hours next to the Qilaya road when an Israeli military water truck came into view. Muhaidly shot the driver and slipped into the village of Machghara where he sent a handwritten message that read: “We killed an Israeli soldier on the Qilaya road. The resistance has begun.”
Muhaidly was one of many young Communist men and women who responded to the 16 September 1982 call to join the Lebanese National Resistance Front in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The front became known by its Arabic acronym, Jammoul.
Muhaidly’s ambush was followed by more military operations in the western Bekaa, the details of which were revealed to Al-Akhbar by former fighters.
In the weeks following that first attack, an Israeli soldier was shot and killed by a sniper near the Machghara technical school. Another group attacked a heliport in Baaloul, while yet another attacked the Israeli installation in Qaraoun. The resistance grew and spread to Beirut, and Israeli forces responded by arresting hundreds of young men in western Bekaa and Rashaya.
Shortly after, the Jammoul leadership decided that the infamous Israeli intelligence officer who went by the name of Abul-Nour, who treated the residents of western Bekaa brutally, must be captured or killed.
The resistance fighters recall how they devised an elaborate plan to lure Abul-Nour into a trap using false information planted by a double agent.
The mole started by tipping off Abul-Nour to the presence of a planted weapons cache near the village of Majdal Balhis. The Israelis carried out a successful raid on the site and the mole gained Abul-Nour’s trust.
After winning the trust of the Israelis, the Jammoul leadership decided to go forward with their plan to lure Abul-Nour to Majdal Balhis where they would ambush and capture him.
The mole was then tasked with feeding the Israeli officer information about an ambush the Communists were supposedly planning to carry out near Qaraoun.
A person who is familiar with this 1984 operation told Al-Akhbar: “We asked our comrade to inform Abul-Nour that a group of Communists are in a house at the entrance of Majdal Balhis and that they should be taken by surprise while sleeping and arrested.”
Little did Abul-Nour know, however, six fighters were sent to lie in wait at the house.
“At the determined time, Abul-Nour’s car - a BMW - arrived along with another civilian car and a military jeep,” he continued. “When Abul-Nour and his group came within firing range, I called on him to surrender himself, but he fired instead, so we shot him and the rest of his group.”
“He died immediately along with five others,” the source added. “One of the comrades carried Abul-Nour who was a big man, so we could keep his corpse. But due to time constraints and logistical reasons we could not transfer his body outside the occupied territories.”
By the spring of 1985, Jammoul had succeeded in driving the Israelis out of the western Bekaa, Rashaya and large areas in the south, and the leadership met to evaluate their progress and strategy. After much discussion, they decided to bring the fight to the Israelis by attacking targets inside the “security belt,” the highly militarized strip of territory along Lebanon’s southern border that the Israelis used as a buffer zone. Specifically, Jammoul would focus on Jabal al-Sheikh (Mount Hermon), Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills.
In 1986, George Nasrallah (who was known by his nom de guerre Hadi) and Kifah Batouli were put in charge of the Shebaa Farms and the western slopes of Mount Hermon area. They spent six days drawing out detailed maps of Israeli installations and roads, noted the different kinds of barbed wire and evaluated the feasibility of capturing Israeli soldiers and taking them outside the occupied territories.
Twice, they tried and failed to capture Israeli soldiers, and so Jammoul leadership decided to switch tactics and capture soldiers in the regions around the liberated areas. They planned for more than one operation. A major confrontation took place in Mount Hermon in September 1987, October 1987 and June 1988, during which Hadi and his comrade Mikhail Hanna Ibrahim were killed.
The mixed results of these operations prompted Jammoul leadership to make the Shebaa Farms a priority once again.
Mahmoud al-Hujairi (Bilal), Elie Haddad (al-Shakour) and Raed were tasked with doing reconnaissance of the al- Sammaqa Israeli military base. The three went to the south of Kfarshouba and stayed there for several days. At one point, Mahmoud was able to enter to the military site, where he was able to evade detection for more than four hours. After collecting as much information as they could, they planned the attack for 10 September 1989.
Mahmoud and Elie led the group that carried out the attack. They put an explosive device at the entrance of a Merkava tank then rejoined the rest of the group. Then they divided the group into two subgroups. The first stormed the site and the second dealt with the tank. Mahmoud and Elie killed the personnel at the site with hand grenades and machine guns and managed to seize control for 10 minutes while a comrade flew the Communist Party’s flag. The second subgroup detonated the bomb on the tank and attacked whoever was still alive in it.
Jammoul military operations would ebb in the 1990s yielding way to the growing resistance of Hezbollah, which picked up right where Jammoul left. In May 2000, less than 18 years after Jammoul’s call to military resistance against occupation, Israeli troops would withdraw from the majority of the land they had occupied in Lebanon.
Jammoul in Beirut
Monuments That Do Not Remind Us of September in Beirut
Beirut - On a sidewalk no one uses, there is a small plaque, barely noticed by passersby and residents of Beirut’s bustling Zarif neighborhood.
The “Ayyoub Station Plaque,” named after the nearby petrol station, commemorates a successful military operation by the Lebanese National Resistance Front (better known by its Arabic acronym, Jammoul) against the Israeli Army on the sixth day of the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982. Here, the memory of that fateful day is fading.
When Al-Akhbar asked some local residents, many had heard a version of the story: someone, apparently a communist, was killed here in September 1982 outside the station.
“Something must have happened here,” says Ali, who has spent half his life in the area.
Some words then jog a half-buried memory: “operation,” “unknown resistance fighters,” “resistance front,” “1982.” Slowly he is able to piece together a story he recognizes.
Others have no idea what the sign is for.
“It is a sign pointing to the Lebanese Communist Party headquarters,” says a man waiting for a taxi. “But why is it this far away?”
Another man laughs at the comment.
“It seems he didn’t live through the period,” he says, referring to the first man. “I did and I know that the communist party put it up. But, it is not to point out their headquarters. Rather, it is a way of saying ‘we are here,’ like the Amal Movement and Hezbollah have done. That’s it.”
This is what the people of the neighborhood remember of the Lebanese National Resistance Front. Had they lived through the terror of the time, perhaps they would have memorized the names of the three men who, on 22 September 1982, set fire to two armored vehicles full of Israeli soldiers on that very spot.
But those who remember are but a few. They are considered nostalgic for wanting to protect the memory of such symbolic places. They know about the series of operations carried out by the Communist Party at Bustros Pharmacy, Ayyoub Station, the Palestinian Liberation Organization building, and others. They know how the party inspired Beirut to resist when most of the city had given up hope.
On 16 September 1982, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) made its famous call calling on “everyone” to join the Lebanese National Resistance Front against the Israeli enemy that had just invaded the city.
Beirut was living through one of its ugliest periods. It was under siege by the Israeli troops. Hundreds of people had just been massacred in Sabra and Shatila. The Lebanese were giving up, throwing away their weapons and fleeing. Many hung white flags of surrender from their balconies.
But the LCP decided it would begin carrying out “resistance operations.” When many Lebanese were fleeing the city or surrendering to the invasion, a small group of militants began something the consequences of which they could not have foreseen, and even if they had, they would not have cared – the blood of Sabra and Shatila was still warm.
The first operation was at the Bustros Pharmacy. One day after the Israelis entered Beirut, the plan was put into action.
One of the men involved in the operation described the process of planning as a “virtual” exercise whose implementation did not go as smoothly as planned.
The person who was supposed to carry out the operation was forced to leave his position.
“Some people were replaced. The lucky ones stayed at home,” the organizer told Al-Akhbar.
The weapons had to be changed. The hideouts were surrounded and the fighters had to improvise. Bustros Pharmacy was not even the originally planned location, leading many to believe the operation was an individual initiative.
It was a risky operation against an enemy who had just committed a horrendous massacre in the Palestinian camps.
Nevertheless, the hit was successful. The culture of defeat began to change. This was partially achieved because the fighters managed not to injure any bystanders, the source said, and the operation was carried out in secrecy with clear military objectives, as opposed to the showier operations that would come later.
The Ayyoub Station operation took place in broad daylight, and news of its success spread immediately.
Resistance fighters set fire to two carriers full of Israeli soldiers. A former Jammoul fighter recalls that although they had achieved a military victory against the enemy, it was clear from their eyes that they did not take killing lightly.
In the wake of Sabra and Shatila, many worried that the Israelis might take its revenge against innocent people.
Despite these fears, more resistance operations took place, and the enemy withdrew from Beirut after less than ten days. But the young men and women did not end their struggle against the Israelis and many followed them to South Lebanon.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.