Civil War in Lebanon

On this day in 1983, the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that kills 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans. The terrorist attack was carried out in protest of the U.S. military presence in Lebanon.

In 1975, a bloody civil war had erupted in Lebanon, with Palestinian and leftist Muslim guerrillas battling militias of the Christian Phalange Party, the Maronite Christian community, and other groups. During the next few years, Syrian, Israeli, and United Nations interventions failed to resolve the factional fighting, and on August 20, 1982, a multinational force featuring U.S. Marines landed in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Marines left Lebanese territory on September 10, only to return 19 days later, following the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian militia. The next day, the first U.S. Marine to die during the mission was killed while defusing a bomb. The subsequent attack was carried out as a suicide car bombing, in which a Chevrolet pickup truck that had been packed with about 2,000 pounds of explosives sped through the gate of the U.S. embassy in West Beirut and struck the building.

The resulting blast killed 32 Lebanese workers, 17 Americans, and 14 other individuals. Among the Americans killed were a journalist and eight members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). About 120 others were injured; Islamic Jihad, a group linked to the Iranian-backed Shīʿite Muslim militia group Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The following October 23, Lebanese terrorists evaded security measures and drove a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel; 58 French soldiers were killed almost simultaneously in a separate suicide terrorist attack.

The following February, confronted with the immutable chaos in the region, President Ronald Reagan regretfully announced the end of U.S. participation in the peacekeeping force. Under heavy covering bombardment from the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey several miles off shore, the last U.S. Marines left Beirut February 26, 1984.