Introduction of Beirut
City in W Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea. An ancient Phoenician city, it was a well-known trading center after 1500 b.c. It was an important city under the Seleucids and even more so from 64 b.c. under the Romans. A notable school of law existed here in the third century a.d. Beirut fell to the Arabs in 635 and was held until 1110 when the forces of the First Crusade under Baldwin I captured it and made it part of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. It continued in this status until 1291, even though Saladin, the Muslim warrior and sultan of Egypt, besieged it in 1182. It was part of the Ottoman Empire, with the Druses in control, after 1517.
When the Egyptians revolted against the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century, Beirut fell to them in 1830; however, 10 years later the British and the French intervened against the Egyptians, captured the city, and returned it to Turkish authority. During World War I Beirut was taken by French troops in 1918 and in 1920 became the capital of Lebanon under a French mand ate from the League of Nations. The Free French and the British took control of the city in 1941 during World War II, and in 1945 it became the capital of an independent Lebanon. The city was the site of several Palestinian refugee camps and a scene of great unrest, guerrilla fighting, and terrorist acts between Christians and Muslims. In 1970 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) moved its headquarters to Beirut. Christian Phlangist forces acted to curb PLO attacks on northern Israel, which helped to cause an alliance of PLO and Lebanese Muslim militias in civil war in the streets of Beirut by 1975. In June 1982 Israeli forces besieged and entered the city, forcing the PLO forces to depart. In September 1982, despite the Israeli presence, there was a massacre of the Palestinians remaining in the camps by Christian Phalangists. In 1983, a terrorist bombing partially destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 50 people. Later that year, 260 U.S. Marines and 60 French soldiers were killed in Beirut when a truck filled with explosives was driven into their military compound. U.S. and French forces were withdrawn in 1984. Israeli forces withdrew from Beirut and much of Lebanon in 1985. Throughout the 1980s the city was a base for a number of militant extremist groups. In 1990 Christian and Muslim militias withdrew, ending the division of Beirut and returning it to the control of the national government. Much of the city has been badly damaged and its economy destroyed by years of civil war, but has since been rebuilt, making Beirut again a cultural and commercial center of the Middle East.