Syrian soldiers take up positions on November 15, 1976, in Beirut. In early June 1976, Syria launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon officially to end the civil war and restore peace, but unofficially it became clear it was to crush the Palestinians. Image Credit: AFP

Beirut: Lebanon’s pro-Syrian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) invited its supporters to a massive rally on Sunday near the Baabda presidential palace to mark the 26th anniversary of the Syrian assaults that destroyed the residence of the head-of-state and forced Michel Aoun to flee.

General Michel Aoun, who had declared a ‘War of Liberation’ against Syria, escaped an assassination attempt on October 12, 1990. The attack on the Aoun Government marked the end of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) as the general escaped to the French Embassy and from there to exile in Paris that lasted until 2005 when Syria was forced to end its occupation of Lebanon.

Several hundred Lebanese soldiers were executed after they surrendered to the Syrian Army.

While Aoun turned the page and reconciled with Damascus after his return from exile, commemorations like the one scheduled for this Sunday show that old wounds persist.

The irony of the rally escaped many Lebanese as deputy Ebrahim Kanaan, a trusted Aoun lieutenant, urged citizens to participate.

“We ask everyone to take to the streets on Sunday in honour of our martyrs, to reiterate our commitment to a free, democratic Lebanon and to demand the necessary reforms to make the Lebanese Republic a strong one,” Kanaan told reporters following the FPM’s weekly meeting.

He said nothing about the Syrian Arab Army’s attacks that may have been responsible for near 700 dead and 2,000 injured.

“October 13 is the greatest act of martyrdom committed by our Lebanese Army under Aoun’s command,” Kanaan declared.

“If it weren’t for Aoun, the Lebanese people wouldn’t be talking about democracy and freedom today,” he added.