|The Christian-populated towns, Damour and Jieh, were massacred after two weeks of siege and intensive shelling on January 20, 1976 by a combined force of leftwing militia fighters, Palestinian and PLA forces (2,000 Palestine Liberation Army had entered Lebanon from Syria in Late December 1975).
Both towns were pillaged then destroyed, at least 500 people were killed; More than 25,000 people fled to safety at neighboring Saadiyat villas area, only to find it was already under attack, too. Eventually, they escaped by sea in small rowing boats and cattle ships.
|Annahar 21 January 1976|
Jieh, January 21 1976
The car prowled down the coastal highway rather slowly, debris littered the road, armed militiamen roamed the streets and on both sides of the road homes were burning out of control while many other homes were still smoldering from the fires. A few hundred meters to the East I saw our house burning out of control and some human ghosts running wild everywhere. A strange darkness fell into the road, a village was being “cremated” and that weird smell was but the sign of a peculiar blackness thickened by the flying ashes. It was not your daily coastal ride; it was our only way for escape that dreaded night. Bombs and missiles were falling hard on the Saadiyat area where we took refuge with thousands of other people coming from Jieh and Damour. They all had gathered in Saadiyat near former president Chamoun residence few days earlier fleeing their homes with nothing but their broken dreams, their sense of hopelessness and despair. It was cold and rainy and missiles were falling intermittently.
Evacuation by sea to Jounieh and the Eastern area shores began in cargo and cattle ships. Everywhere you looked you saw guns and machine guns and RPGs littering the area. However, no weapons were permitted on the ships and the weapons were useless anyway because Jieh and Damour defenders had ran out of ammunitions after steadfastly defending their besieged towns for over 15 days. Evacuation was chaotic to say the least and a few people decided to evacuate by car south of Jieh after giving assurances of safe passage. Kidnappings and beatings was the fate of most who dared and drove south after believing the safe passage theory.
I was 12 years old in 1976 and being a young kid I was allowed to go with grandma back to the village few days later for only few hours. What I saw was a true carnage. Houses were still smoldering and that peculiar fire smell haunted the village. Militiamen (mainly Palestinians , Lebanese and other arabs) were still in the village. Pillaging was in full force, pick-up trucks were loading what’s left and even the chickens were not spared . The new “conquerers” Al Saika, Fateh, PFLP, DFLP, Nasserites, Mourabitoun, Ittihad Ishtiraki, Ishtiraki, Baath Souri, Baath Iraqi , Indibat al Baath, Rabtet al Shaghileh, SSNP and many others who had left their civilized marks on our burned walls.
We left in a hurry after we were issued warnings that we are in the wrong place only to return a few months later and rebuilt in “anticipation” of the second and third evacuation and destruction of Jieh in 1982 and 1985 respectively.
G. M. A.
“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” -- Jospeh Conrad “Heart of Darkness”
|Time Magazine Feb, 2 1976|
|Annahar Jan 25, 1976|
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