Lebanese websites report that Antoine Lahad, the former commander of the South Lebanon Army, died a few days ago in Paris at the age of 88, following deterioration in his health. Lahad commanded the SLA from 1984 until the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000. He replaced Maj. Sa’ad Haddad, who founded the SLA with Israeli support and aid after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 in the first Lebanon war. The SLA’s job was to protect villages inside the south Lebanon security zone.
Lahad graduated from the Lebanese Army Military Academy in 1952 and served in the Lebanese army. He was close to President Camille Chamoun. In 1989 he was badly injured in an assassination attempt carried by Souha Bechara, a young woman in the Lebanese Communist Party, which supported the Palestinian struggle and opposed Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon.
Lahad recovered from his injuries but did not regain full functioning, even though he remained the nominal commander of the SLA. In practice he was replaced by Col. Akl Hachem, who was assassinated by Hezbollah in January 2000, an incident that marked the beginning of the SLA’s dissolution.
Lahad left Lebanon with thousands of others after Israel withdrew. He lived in Tel Aviv for a while and occasionally expressed his feelings of being betrayed by Israel’s conduct and its withdrawal from Lebanon, which left SLA fighters and their families exposed to persecution by Hezbollah.
Lahad opened a restaurant in Tel Aviv, but left shortly thereafter for Paris. Since 2001 he had a life sentence for treason hanging over his head. He is described on Lebanese websites as a traitor and an Israeli agent.
The Lebanese daily Al-Nahar reported that Lahad will be buried in Paris within a few days, but family members have said they want his remains repatriated and buried in his home village of Kafr Qattara, in the Chouf mountains in southeastern Lebanon. Over the last few years, many Lebanese citizens who fled to Israel have died, and with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross their bodies were repatriated to Lebanon.