Lebanon Table of Contents

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought Lebanon further problems, as Turkey allied itself with Germany and AustriaHungary . The Turkish government abolished Lebanon's semiautonomous status and appointed Jamal Pasha, then minister of the navy, as the commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Syria, with discretionary powers. Known for his harshness, he militarily occupied Lebanon and replaced the Armenian mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, with a Turk, Munif Pasha.

In February 1915, frustrated by his unsuccessful attack on the British forces protecting the Suez Canal, Jamal Pasha initiated a blockade of the entire eastern Mediterranean coast to prevent supplies from reaching his enemies and indirectly caused thousands of deaths from widespread famine and plagues. Lebanon suffered as much as, or more than, any other Ottoman province. The blockade deprived the country of its tourists and summer visitors, and remittances from relatives and friends were lost or delayed for months. The Turkish Army cut down trees for wood to fuel trains or for military purposes. In 1916 Turkish authorities publicly executed twenty-one Syrians and Lebanese in Damascus and Beirut, respectively, for alleged anti-Turkish activities. The date, May 6, is commemorated annually in both countries as Martyrs' Day, and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square.

Relief came, however, in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, moved into Palestine with British and Arab forces, thus opening the way for the occupation of Syria and Lebanon. At the San Remo Conference held in Italy in April 1920, the Allies gave France a mandate over Greater Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress