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Historical Fact: The Assassination of Tony Franjieh
Tension was building between members of the Lebanese Front in May 1978 due to what many felt was Sulayman Franjieh's pro Syrian stance, and his intention to break away from the Front. At the start of the war Franjieh had been obliged to call on the Phalange for help in the north of Lebanon where before the war the Phalange had not been a major force especially in Zgharta, Franjieh's home town. By 1978 the Phalange had become well established in the region and where picking up recruits and threatening Marada's protection rackets particularly around Chekka. Marada was Franjieh's militia commanded by his son Tony.

By the spring of 1978 Franjieh had asked the Phalange to pull out of the north so as to leave Tony in charge of the area. By now the Phalange were losing men daily as they were picked off by Marada, and Phalange members were denied basic goods and services in the north after being black listed by Marada. Attempts to reconcile the two factions at Bkerke were not successful and in May Franjieh had stopped attending Lebanese Front meetings and began courting the Syrians. Matters came to a head on June 8 1978 when a local Phalange leader, Joud el Bayeh, was murdered by six armed men sent by Tony Franjieh. Bashir Gemayel decided to strike back.

On June 13, 1978, Gemayel launched a surprise attack that decimated the Marada Brigade, Tony Franjieh was killed in the attack. The operation was lead by Samir Geagea and it was claimed by him and by Gemayel that its purpose was to arrest the killers of Bayeh and to take and hold the town of Ehden, the Franjieh summer residence, until Marada withdrew from Chekka. The Phalangist force assembled at Qnat and were in position at Ehden at 4:00 am, the main assault force struck the Franjieh residence first which was also a communication centre and weapons storage facility. During the fighting Geagea was seriously wounded in the shoulder and lost consciousness. In the assault, Tony, his wife, baby daughter, maid, dog, and some 35 of his men were killed.

Withdrawal proved difficult with Syrian check points everywhere, Syrian planes also strafed the raiders. With the Marada on the streets in large numbers, many of the Phalangists had to wait until nightfall and make their way back to their lines on foot. Seven of the raiding commandos were killed.

The exact circumstances of Tony's death remain vague with accounts of Tony and his family being already dead when the Geagea strike force arrived, while other accounts claim that there were two raiding parties with Elie Hobeika leading one of them.





 

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