Lebanon: 40 years of ICRC presence


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been present in Lebanon since 1967 providing assistance and protection to civilians affected by armed conflict, in close cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross Society and the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

 Over the last forty years, the ICRC has assisted families separated by war, prisoners, displaced populations, acted as neutral intermediary in the exchange of combatants and mortal remains and reminded the different parties involved in the conflict to respect the principles of international humanitarian law. Likewise, the ICRC has actively disseminated international humanitarian law among armed groups and civil society.  


Opening of an ICRC delegation in Beirut.
Visits to prisoners of war interned in Lebanon start shortly after the end of the Six-Day War.
August 9: Exchange of 33 Lebanese civilians for one Israeli prisoner of war and four Israeli civilians.


End of October: Seven wounded Palestinians visited in South Lebanon. In Beirut, the ICRC visits two Lebanese soldiers and two wounded Palestinians, as well as 34 Palestinian detainees incarcerated in Lebanon. The ICRC repatriates several people who inadvertently crossed the border between Lebanon and Israel.


May 3: Evacuation of people with major injuries during a truce obtained by the ICRC. These operations are repeated in the following days.



The ICRC organizes a large relief operation (especially medical assistance) and is active in the field of tracing.
May 23: A convoy of ambulances from the ICRC, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Palestine Red Crescent comes under heavy fire. One driver is seriously wounded. Publication of a joint press release reminding what the protective emblems are about and the need to respect them.


The ICRC opens sub-delegations in Jounieh, Tripoli and Baalbeck. It dispatches relief assistance (medicines, medical supplies, food parcels, blankets, clothes ...) to displaced people and other war victims in Beirut and its suburbs as well as in the rest of the country.
February 13: The ICRC sets up a field hospital in the southern suburbs of Beirut. It will be closed on December 11.
June: Visits to Syrian military prisoners in Beirut and Saida. They will later be freed and repatriated.
August to November: Visits to about 120 prisoners detained by 10 different parties in 12 detention locations scattered in East and West Beirut, Antelias, the Chouf Mountains, Tripoli, Hasbaya and Kleya (south of the country). Most of them are freed during that period under the auspices of the ICRC or due to its intervention.


April: Opening of an office in Tyre.
The ICRC progressively diminishes its assistance activities throughout the country. In the South, nevertheless, it intensifies its humanitarian activities in terms of relief distribution and medical assistance. It als o continues its protective action in favor of missing persons and detainees.


Early March: Opening of an office in Achrafieh.
From March 16: Medical activities and opening of an emergency centre in Tyre to treat the wounded.
March 28: First visits to Lebanese detainees in Israel. Regular visits to approximately 150 villages south of the Litani River and distribution of assistance to internally displaced people in South Lebanon.
September 27 - October 8: Relief distribution to East Beirut hospitals during the brief periods of calm.
October 2 - 4: The ICRC calls for truces.
From October 8: Evacuation of the wounded, assessment of needs and fund-raising appeals. Distribution of medicines, powder milk and water, and delivery of Red Cross Messages. Opening of an office in Jounieh.


Access to a number of detainees held by two rival Christian factions. 164 detainees are freed under the auspices of the ICRC.


Limited medical relief actions in response to confrontations between different armed groups and Israeli military operations south of the country.
 March: Suspension of the assistance activities.


July: Handover of a verbal note to all parties, proposing to open a serious dialogue to study all means of reinforcing the protection of civilian population in the region.
Relief activities in Zahleh, Beirut and South Lebanon. Medical relief activities are restored. Visits to persons detained by different factions in several areas of the country.


June 7 and 9: Appeals to combatants engaged in hostilities to remind them of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
Intense activity in the fields of medical assistance and provision of relief. During the first days of the Israeli invasion, around 10,000 inhabitants from Tyre massively sought refuge at the ICRC Delegation; a medical centre is created inside the ICRC offices, in collaboration with several local doctors.
The ICRC establishes a network of tracing offices, or " Red Cross Agencies " , throughout the country.
Since July 18 : Visits to prisoners interned at the Ansar camp in South Lebanon.
Since August: Visits to Syrian prisoners of war detained in Israel.
July 4: Renewed appeal as on June 9.
August 1: New appeal.
August 4: The ICRC President sends a message to the personal attention of the Israeli Prime Minister.
September 18 : Appeal made to the international community following the massacres in Sabra and Chatila camps. The ICRC engages in medical assistance and mainly protection activities as soon as is able to access the camps on September 18.
September to December: Daily visits to Palestinian camps in South Lebanon.


February 17: The ICRC offers its services to the Lebanese authorities regarding detainees in the hands of the Lebanese Army.
March 15: Beginning of visits to around 700 detainees until the end of the year.
September 5: Appeal to all belligerents to respect the cease fire.
September 7: New appeal released simultaneously from the Headquarters in Geneva and from the field, asking for an immediate and effective general ceasefire, reminding belligerents of the respect due to the Red Cross and the Red Crescent emblems, ambulances and hospitals, and the necessity to spare the civilian population. These demands are reiterated on September 8 and 10, and again on November 4.
Regular visits to Palestinian camps in the outskirts of Saida and Tyre.
October to December: Aid activities following confrontations in the Chouf and major population displacements . Evacuation of a large number of civilians in two phases (between the 1 and 8 of November and the 15 and 22 of December) towards Saida and Beirut.
November 24: Liberation of almost all Ansar prisoners. Aid provided to freed detainees. During the first eleven months of the year, almost one million Red Cross Messages are exchanged between prisoners and their families. Throughout this period, the ICRC intervenes repeatedly with the Israeli authorities, asking for improvement of detention conditions. Following a number of incidents that caused 38 wounded (mostly by bullets) and 6 dead. The ICRC also demands an investigation on these incidents.
Starting in September , the Israeli authorities begin transferring some prisoners from Ansar to Atlit prison inside Israel. The ICRC protests to the Minister of Defense against this violation of the IV Geneva Convention. The detainees are visited 3 times in September and October, before the ICRC is barred from pursuing its protection activities.
December: Re-opening of Ansar, for incarcerating administrative detainees in South Lebanon. ICRC visits are allowed to resume as of December 26.


First semester: Assistance activities.
Second semester: Tracing and protection activities for the civilian population and the detained.


July 16: Press release declaring that the abuse of the protective Red Cross emblem, notably to mutilate and kill without discrimination, is a hideous act that jeopardizes the efficiency of ICRC activities in Lebanon to the disadvantage of the victims.
During the year, and with the advent of major troubles, delegates operate in the most sensitive areas or in their vicinity. Some 481 persons detained by several militias are visited. Medical and emergency assistance is distributed to 80,000 civilians, victims of confrontations that occurred in the Saida-Jezzine area in April.
Also in Beirut, distributions are carried out to 19,200 persons during battles in May and June.


Two Lebanese Red Cross first aiders are killed and eight others injured during evacuations of wounded and transfer operations. Security restrictions prevent humanitarian action from being carried out properly: some injured people cannot be evacuated on time and civilians, victims of the fights between factions, remain isolated and blocked and cannot be assisted.
December 1: Press release emphasizing the impossibility to come to the rescue of combat victims both in Beirut and the South of the country.


February 10: Press release denouncing the impossibility to rescue victims of armed conflict during the " war of the camps " both in Beirut and the South. Increase of assistance and protection activities benefiting the civilian population.
March - April: It is only on March 12 that the ICRC can enter the camp of Rashidiyyeh near Tyre, and on April 8 and 9 the camps of Chatila and Borj Barajneh in Beirut. The delegates manage to go into the camps on a relatively regular basis to evacuate the sick and injured and to carry out tracing activities.
October 3: Meeting in Geneva between the ICRC president and the Lebanese President Amin Gemayel.


November 17: A delegate, Peter Winkler, is kidnapped. He will be freed 30 days later.
December 20: The ICRC announces that it will suspend its activities in Lebanon due to new threats. Before that date, the volume of the aid distributed to the population affected by the conflict surpasses that of previous years.


February 6: Progressive return of the ICRC to Lebanon.
April 26 : The ICRC Director of Operations hands over a memorandum, explaining the ICRC’s mandate and making several concrete propositions, to the representatives of Lebanese factions in Beirut and the Syrian authorities in Damascus. The ICRC is also concerned about the fate of civilians who originate from villages in the " Security Zone " or who still live there. Many steps are undertaken in favor of these civilians, notably to ensure their respect by parties involved in the conflict, and to lodge complains when civilians are displaced, expelled, killed or injured and when houses are destroyed and crops looted.
October 6: Two delegates are kidnapped in Saida - Emmanuel Christen and Elio Erriquez.


August 8 and 13: The two kidnapped delegates are released. The ICRC decides to maintain its presence in Lebanon but to diminish the number of expatriate delegates and strengthen security measures. It remains active in the following fields: protection of civilians, detention, tracing, medical activities and relief.


The ICRC is mainly located in South Lebanon, the Bekaa valley and along the green line between the Israeli-occupied area and the rest of the country. Throughout the year, there are civilians casualties in South Lebanon. The ICRC provides civilians with aid, protection and medical care.


The situation remains tense in South Lebanon. The protection of civilians is a major concern to ICRC delegates in Lebanon. They verify allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law that caused civilian death or injury or property destruction. They also undertake steps in that regard with the parties involved in the conflict in the south of the country.
July 25: Large Israeli attack on South Lebanon codenamed " Operation Rendering Justice " . Around 300,000 civilians are forced to flee from their homes; 130 persons are killed and many hundreds more injured. ICRC assessment reveals that more than 800 buildings are completely destroye d and 2,000 damaged. The ICRC launches public appeals to all parties involved in the conflict to respect the rules of International Humanitarian Law. Assistance and medical supplies, including medicines, are distributed to hospitals and dispensaries.


Frequent fighting between Israel and the South Lebanon Army on one hand and the Lebanese Resistance Movement on the other. ICRC intervenes in favor of victims in cases of allegations of IHL violations. Arrangement of temporary ceasefires to enable residents of villages bordering the " Security Zone " to work on their fields and repair water pipes. Relief distributions.
November 1 to 4: XXIV regional conference of Arab Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Beirut.
November: The ICRC offers its services to the Lebanese government in order to have access to all security detainees.


Military operations in South Lebanon throughout the year. The delegation negotiates temporary truces with all parties involved in order to carry out its humanitarian activities. They include removing the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed in combat, in collaboration with first-aid teams of the Lebanese Red Cross, repairing damaged waterpipes and pumps, and restituting fishing boats confiscated by the Israeli Marines to their Lebanese owners. Delegates also distribute ad hoc assistance to people affected by the conflict.
January: For the first time since the opening of the Khiam detention center in 1984, the ICRC is allowed to organize family visits.
April 1: The ICRC stops its assistance to two rehabilitation centres in Beit Chebab and Saida.
July 8 to 11: ICRC President takes part in the Lebanese Red Cross 50th anniversary celebrations. He also goes to the Ain El Helweh Palestinian camp in Saida. Following particularly violent rounds of fighting on June 12 in that same camp, assistance is distributed to families whose houses had been destroyed or damaged during the fighting.
October 9 to 24: First visit to Khiam. 191 detainees registered. Ten others, who had been recently arrested, are also registered during the following four ad-hoc ICRC visits.


Early April: Two-week Israeli operation in South Lebanon codenamed " The Grapes of Wrath " . During and after military operations, the ICRC provides assistance and protection to civilians who stay under enemy fire in South Lebanon and to internally displaced people who seek refuge in public places in Saida, Beirut, the Chouf Mountains and the Bekaa valley.
April 16: The ICRC reminds belligerents of their obligation to respect IHL.
July 21: Following an agreement negotiated under the auspices of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and upon the request of parties involved, the ICRC monitors the simultaneous release of 62 prisoners and the repatriation of the bodies of 125 persons held by Israel, Hizbollah and the SLA.


Escalation of military operations in South Lebanon. Delegates collect information about alleged IHL violations and intervene with the concerned parties asking them to spare civilian lives and property. The Delegation also negotiates with all parties involved, to obtain security guarantees for its humanitarian activities and access to villages isolated by the fighting. Medical assistance and non-food items are distributed to victims of the conflict.
September 10: The authorities inform the ICRC that no longer has access to the Khiam centre and that the family visit program is suspended.
October 31: The Republic of Lebanon adheres to the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions.


South Lebanon: In addition to medical support to local infrastructure, family parcels, kitchen tools and blankets are distributed to victims of armed hostilities in the area close to the green line.
June 25: the ICRC participats as a neutral intermediary in the repatriation of the bodies of one Israeli soldier and 40 Lebanese combatants. The following day, 10 persons detained in Israeli prisons and 50 detainees from the Khiam detention center are freed and handed over to the ICRC.
July 7: Visits to Khiam resume.


Throughout the year, the Israeli-occupied part of South Lebanon and adjacent areas are the theatre of military operations and security incidents. However, the number of civilian victims decreased for a secon d year in a row.
The ICRC is committed to improving the conditions of civilians affected by the consequences of hostilities.
December: The ICRC organizes the repatriation from South Lebanon of the bodies of 7 members of Lebanese armed groups.


May: Israel withdraws from South Lebanon after 22 years of occupation. The detainees held in Khiam prison are freed by the local population after the departure of the guards. On the day of their liberation, the ICRC makes sure that all ex-detainees are able to rejoin their families safely.
During the retreat of the Israeli army, the ICRC is able to monitor closely the situation of the civilian population and provides for urgent needs. Medical activities of the Lebanese Red Cross mobile clinics increase. The clinics cater for emergency cases and demands for assistance increase as more people return to their villages.
After the retreat of the Israeli forces, the problem of civilians wounded by landmines becomes a major concern for the ICRC.
December: Initial approval by the Lebanese Prime Minister to grant the ICRC access to all prisoners in all places of detention.


The ICRC remains committed to following up the conditions of civilians living in the previously occupied zone and to re-establishing and maintaining links between separated families. The promotion of IHL and cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross to boost preparation for emergency situations (first aid) and raising awareness about mines are also key aspects of ICRC activities in the country.

2002 - 2005 

The main ICRC concern is to gain authorization to visit, according to its working modalities, the detainees held by the Lebanese authorities and Israeli nationals captured by Hizbollah. It also strives to clarify the fate of the large number of people who are still missing many years after the end of the civil war and after 22 years of Israeli occupation. Since the Israeli withdrawal, the ICRC continues to monitor the situation of civilians living in the formerly occupied zone, especially those who fled to Israel at the end of the occupation, but returned to south Lebanon afterwards. The re-establishment and maintaining of links between separated family members remains an ICRC priority. IHL dissemination, cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross in first aid and prevention from landmine dangers are also crucial activities of the ICRC in Lebanon.


July-August: During the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, the ICRC calls on all parties to respect IHL provisions.
It organizes a large-scale operation to respond humanitarian needs in cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross.


February 20: The Lebanese authorities and the ICRC sign a protocol authorizing the ICRC to visit, according to ICRC working modalities, those detained by the Lebanese authorities.
In coordination with the Lebanese Red Cross and the Palestine Red Crescent, the ICRC carri es out an emergency operation to answer to the needs of refugees inside Nahr El Bared Palestinian camp and of those displaced in other camps. Two first aiders from the Lebanese Red Cross are killed during the hostilities. In the South, 700,000 people benefit from the ICRC rehabilitation of water networks and infrastructures destroyed by Israel during the July-August war in 2006.


    pdf file   Leaflet    (2.9Mb)