ehden massacre



The Ehden massacre ( ar, مجزرة إهدن) took place on 13 June 1978, part of the 1975–1990
Lebanese Civil War The Lebanese Civil War ( ar, الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية, translit=Al-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted armed conflict that took place from 1975 to 1990. It resulted in an estimated 120,000 fatalities a ...
. It was an inter-Christian attack that occurred between the Maronite clans. A Phalangist squad attacked the mansion of Frangieh family in an attempt to capture
Ehden Ehden ( ar, إِهْدِن, Syriac-Aramaic: ܐܗܕ ܢ ) is a mountainous city in the heart of the northern mountains of Lebanon and on the southwestern slopes of Mount Makmal in the Mount Lebanon Range. Its residents are the people of Zgharta, as ...
, killing nearly 40 people including
Tony Frangieh Antoine "Tony" Suleiman Frangieh (; 1 September 1941 – 13 June 1978) was a Lebanese politician and militia commander during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War. He was the son of Suleiman Frangieh, a former Lebanese president. Educ ...
, his spouse and his three-year-old daughter, Jihane. After the massacre, the power of the Frangiehs is reported to have declined.


At the initial phase of the Lebanese civil war, more specifically in the summer of 1976, the major Maronite leaders formed the
Lebanese Front The Lebanese Front ( ar, الجبهة اللبنانية, ''al-Jabha al-Lubnaniyya'') or ''Front Libanais'' in French, was a coalition of mainly Lebanese Nationalist parties formed in 1976 by majority Christian intellectuals during the Leban ...
, institutionalizing their cooperation. However, the relations among the members of the Lebanese Front damaged in May 1978 due to
Suleiman Frangieh Suleiman Kabalan Frangieh, last name also spelled ''Frangié,'' ''Franjieh,'' or ''Franjiyeh'' (, 15 June 1910 – 23 July 1992), was a Lebanese Maronite politician who was President of Lebanon from 1970 to 1976. Early life and education Sulei ...
's pro-Syrian position and his intention to leave the Front. Eventually Frangieh left the alliance later in 1978. On the other hand, again at the initial stage of the civil war, Frangieh had to call on the Phalange for assistance in the north of Lebanon where before the war the Phalange had not had any power, especially in
Zgharta Zgharta ( ar, زغرتا, syc, ܙܓܪܬܐ), also spelled Zghorta, is a city in North Lebanon, with an estimated population of around 50,000. It is the second biggest city in Northern Lebanon after Tripoli. Zgharta is about 150 metres above se ...
, Frangieh's hometown. Beginning in 1978, the Phalange had become a major force in the region, picking up recruits and threatening Marada's protection rackets, especially around
Chekka Chekka is coastal town located in North Lebanon. It is located north of Râs ach-Chaq’a’ and Herri beaches, or Theoprosopon of classical times and south of the ancient Phoenician port of Enfeh and the city of Tripoli. The origin of the word ...
. Marada was the militia commanded by Suleiman Frengieh's son Tony and the local force of the region. In 1978 Spring, the Frangieh family asked the Phalange to leave the region. In fact, the Phalange were losing power there. All attempts to reconcile the two groups at Bkerke were unsuccessful. In May 1978, Suleiman Frangieh began not attending the Lebanese Front meetings and instead, developed close relations with the Syrians. The Frangieh family had aligned with Syria through personal relationships between Suleiman Frangieh and the Syrian President
Hafez Assad Hafez al-Assad ', , (, 6 October 1930 – 10 June 2000) was a Syrian statesman and military officer who served as President of Syria from taking power in 1971 until his death in 2000. He was also Prime Minister of Syria from 1970 to 197 ...
, and between Tony Frangieh and Assad's younger brother Rifaat Assad. Furthermore, the Phalangists were claimed to have wanted the partition of Lebanon, while the Frangiehs to have wished to keep it whole. Therefore, it is argued that the Frangieh-Gemayel rivalry had initially been a purely political feud, and it was the only motive of the massacre. In addition, another critical event or trigger for the massacre was the assassination of a local Phalange leader and commander, Joud Al Bayeh, by six armed men sent by Tony Frangieh on 8 June 1978. Bayeh had attempted to open an office in Zgharta before he was killed. Bashir Gemayel initially tried to settle the problem through negotiations via Maronite Patriarch Antonios Khreich. But, these negotiations did not become productive. Gemayel then decided to retaliate with a reprisal raid deep into Frangieh's mansion in Ehden. The original plan was to arrest those who had murdered Al Bayeh. It was known that they had been hiding in Frangieh's summer residence in Ehden.


On 13 June 1978 at 4am, hundreds of Bashir Gemayel's Phalangist gunmen attacked the mansion of Frangieh family in Ehden, and murdered Tony Frangieh, his wife Vera Frangieh (née el Kordahi), their three-year-old daughter Jihane, and thirty other Marada bodyguards and aides, who were at the mansion. Tony Frangieh was the eldest son of the former Lebanon President Sulaiman Frangieh and scion of one of the most powerful northern Maronite clans. He was at 36 age when killed. Those in the mansion refused to surrender and a long gun battle ensued in which Samir Geagea was seriously injured and fell unconscious on the road leading to the compound. The operation was successful from a military standpoint, but when Gemayel's men entered the mansion, they unexpectedly recognised among the dead Tony Frangieh and several members of his family. The Marada members were killed while trying to defend the mansion. "Even the family dog did not escape the carnage of that day." Tony's father Suleiman Frangieh claimed that the Phalangist gunmen forced Tony and his young wife Vera to watch the shooting of their infant daughter Jihane, then made him watch the murder of his wife, before killing him. More than ten phalangist gunmen were also killed in the attack. Tony Frangieh's son, Suleiman Frangieh Jr., escaped the massacre. He was not with his family in Ehden at that time.


One of the Phalange forces attacked the mansion was led by then 26-year-old Samir Geagea. Geagea's hometown was traditionally at odds with the Frangiehs. It was further claimed that the other squad was led by
Elie Hobeika Elie Hobeika ( ar, إيلي حبيقة; 22 September 1956 – 24 January 2002) was a Lebanese militia commander in the Lebanese Forces militia during the Lebanese Civil War and one of Bashir Gemayel's close confidants. After the murder of Gem ...


On 14 July 1978, a funeral ceremony was organized for the victims in Zagharta. Syrian troops stormed a village, Deir el Ahmar, nearly 15.5 miles southeast of Ehden to search for the perpetrators on the same day. Marada forces also carried out a series of revenge killings and kidnappings. In the following period the Phalange members in the area were displaced and nearly 100 of them were killed.

Responses to allegations

The Marada Movement, headed by Suleiman Frangieh Jr., accuses the Lebanese Forces of carrying out the Ehden massacre. Bashir Gemayel argued that the massacre was a "social revolt against feudalism." In addition, the Phalangist Party declared that its forces carried out the attack since the Marada forces did not surrender the killers of the Phalangist leader. Samir Geagea who allegedly headed the Phalangist force responsible for the Ehden massacre admitted that he was among the "military squad" that was in charge of the Ehden "operation", but he denied taking part in the massacre, claiming that he was shot before the incident.

Investigation and arrests

Hanna Shallita was arrested during a 1994 government crackdown on Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, who was accused of staging the Ehden massacre. Shallita was set free after paying an LL5 million bail in August 2002. However, no official investigation was ever made to find out who killed the Frangieh family and others, although the file was reopened in 2002. Thus, killers have not been officially identified. On the other hand, when the file was reopened in 2002, Suleiman Frangieh Jr., son of Tony Frangieh, criticised the move, arguing that its aim was to show him manipulation of his slain family's blood for political ends. He further stated "the affair is a bygone for me, buried in the past."

Scholarly views

The travel writer and historian
William Dalrymple William Dalrymple may refer to: * William Dalrymple (1678–1744), Scottish Member of Parliament * William Dalrymple (moderator) (1723–1814), Scottish minister and religious writer * William Dalrymple (British Army officer) (1736–1807), Scott ...
reaches the conclusion that the Ehden massacre was remarkable and revealed more clearly than anything the medieval feudal reality behind the civilized twentieth-century veneer of Lebanese politics.

Related publications

French journalist, Richard Labeviere published a book entitled ''The Ehden Massacre. The Curse of Arab Christians'' (2009). The book provides alleged details of how Samir Geagea, the chief of the Lebanese Forces party, was chosen in 1978 by Mossad to execute the Ehden massacre.


External links

A documentary about Jihane, Tony and Vera Frangieh, victims of the Ehden massacreChamussy (René) – Chronique d'une guerre: Le Liban 1975-1977 – éd. Desclée – 1978
(in French) {{DEFAULTSORT:Ehden massacre 1978 in Lebanon Frangieh family June 1978 events in Asia Mass murder in 1978 Massacres in 1978 Massacres of the Lebanese Civil War Zgharta District 1978 murders in Lebanon