Kataeb Regulatory Forces

Kataeb Regulatory Forces
قوى الكتائب النظامية
Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)

Kataeb Regulatory Forces logo (1961-1977)
Active 1961 – 1980
Groups Kataeb Party, Lebanese Front
Leaders William Hawi, Amin Gemayel, Bashir Gemayel
Headquarters Achrafieh (Beirut), Bikfaya
Strength 15,000 fighters
Originated as 8,000 fighters
Allies Lebanese Army, Army of Free Lebanon (AFL), Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), Tyous Team of Commandos (TTC), Al-Tanzim, Tigers Militia, Marada Brigade, Lebanese Youth Movement (MKG), Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
Opponents Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Tigers Militia, Marada Brigade, Lebanese Arab Army (LAA), Amal Movement, Lebanese Army, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian Army

The Kataeb Regulatory Forces – KRF or RF (Arabic: قوى الكتائب النظامية | Quwwāt al-Katāʾib an-Niẓāmiyyah), Forces Regulatoires du Kataeb (FRK) in French were the military wing of the right-wing Lebanese Christian Kataeb Party, otherwise known as the 'Phalange', from 1961 to 1977. The Kataeb militia, which fought in the early years of the Lebanese civil war, was the predecessor of the Lebanese Forces.


The Phalange party militia was not only the largest and best organized political paramilitary force in Lebanon but also the oldest. It was founded in 1937 as the “Militants’ organization” by the President of the Party Pierre Gemayel and William Hawi, a Lebanese-American glass industrialist, who led them during the 1958 civil war. Fighting alongside the pro-government forces, the Phalangists defended the Metn region, a traditional Phalangist stronghold centered at the town of Bikfaya and the Gemayel family’ feudal seat, and kept the main roads connecting Beirut to that territory open, where the Gemayels held numerous commercial interests.[1]

Disbanded in January 1961 by order of the Kataeb Party' Political Bureau, Hawi created in their place the Kataeb Regulatory Forces. In order to coordinate the activities of all Phalange paramilitary forces, the Political Bureau set up the Kataeb War Council (Arabic: Majliss al-Harbi) in 1970, with William Hawi being appointed as head. The seat of the Council was allocated at the Kataeb Party’s Headquarters at the heart of Achrafieh quarter in East Beirut and a quiet expansion of KRF units followed suit, complemented by the development of a training infrastructure. Two company-sized Special Forces units, the “1st Commando” and the “2nd Commando” were created in 1963, soon followed by the “Pierre Gemayel” squad (later a company) and a VIP protection squad. To this was added in 1973 another commando platoon (Arabic: Maghaweer) and a “Combat School” was secretly opened at Tabrieh, near Bsharri in the Keserwan District; another special unit, the “Bashir Gemayel brigade” – named after Pierre Gemayel’s youngest son, Bashir – was formed in the following year, absorbing the old “PG” company in the process.

Bashir Gemayel and William Hawi supervising training of Kataeb militiamen at Tabrieh, 1972.

Military structure and organization

By April 1975 the Regulatory Forces (RF) were able to muster 5,000 militiamen, a total which included 2,000 full-time uniformed fighters backed by some 3,000 irregulars, originally armed with obsolete firearms. However, some sources place the total of RF fighters higher, around 8,000,[2] organized into autonomous companies or battalions drawn from local Phalange party’ sections (Arabic: qism). Each section was responsible for handling all defensive or offensive military operations on their home districts, except for the regular units (the “Commando”, Maghaweer and “PG” companies), which were often deployed as mobile quick reaction forces.[3] The RF was re-organized and expanded in May 1975, and new specialized units were raised – a Signals battalion (Arabic: Silah al-Ichara), an armoured battalion (aka 2nd Armoured Battalion; Arabic: Silah al-Moudara’a), a battalion-sized women’s section (Arabic: Nizamiyyat) led by Jocelyne Khoueiry, and an artillery group. To maintain law and order in the areas under Phalangist control at Beirut and elsewhere, in 1976 a 1,000-strong Police unit, the Kataeb Security Detachments or “Sections Kataeb de Securité” (SKS) in French was formed and commanded by Raymond Assayan. By January 1976, Phalangist militia ranks had increased to 10,000-15,000 men and women, this number including civilian recruits and deserters from the Lebanese Army.[4]

William Hawi with KRF junior commander Amine Gemayel at Tell al-Zaatar, 1976.

After Hawi was killed in action on 13 July 1976, he was replaced by Bashir Gemayel, the senior RF Inspector since 1971 and future supremo of the Lebanese Forces.[5]

Weapons and equipment

Prior to the war, the Kataeb militia initially received covert support from the Lebanese Army, Egypt and Jordan, and from well-connected right-wing sympathisers in Spain, France, Belgium, Britain and West Germany. Weapons were procured in the international black market or directly from eastern bloc countries, namely Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania; from January 1976 onwards they were secretly financed and armed by Israel, though they also received some aid from Syria. The collapse of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) in January 1976, coupled by the massive influx of Israeli military aid, allowed the KRF to be re-equipped with a variety of modern small-arms seized from LAF barracks and ISF Police stations or supplied by the Israelis. Besides providing training, weapons and ammunition, the Lebanese Army also lent to the KRF sophisticated mobile communications equipment.[6]

Armoured and transport vehicles

A predominately light infantry force, the KRF raised early in 1975 a mechanized corps made of gun-trucks and 'technicals'. The corps' inventory consisted mainly of commandeered M38A1 MD jeeps, Land-Rover series II-III, Toyota Land Cruiser (J40), Dodge Power Wagon W200, Dodge 1956 Fargo pickups, GMC Sierra Custom K25/K30, Chevrolet C-10 Cheyenne and Chevrolet C-20 Scottsdale light pickup trucks, plus Chevrolet Series 50 light-duty, Dodge 600 medium-duty and GMC C7500 medium-duty cargo trucks,[7] and US M35A1 2½-ton cargo trucks,[8][9] equipped with heavy machine guns (HMGs), recoilless rifles and anti-aircraft autocannons. A number of Chevrolet/GMC G-Series third generation vans were used as military ambulances.[10]

The Phalangists’ own modest armored force of five homemade armored cars employed in October 1975 at the Battle of the Hotels in Beirut[11] was also augmented at the time with some ex-LAF vehicles such as AMX-13 and M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks, Charioteer tanks, M42 Duster SPAAGs,[12] M113 and Panhard M3 VTT armored personnel carriers,[13] Panhard AML-90 armored cars,[14][15] Staghound armoured cars,[16][17] and V-100 Commando cars.[18] This allowed for the quick expansion of the RF armoured corps to brigade strength, further strengthened by a consignment of twenty ex-Israeli M50 Super Sherman[19][20] medium tanks (one M50 tank was later lent to the allied Guardians of the Cedars militia, leaving the KRF with a total of 19 Shermans), later joined by two M41 light tanks captured from the Lebanese Arab Army in July 1976,[21] plus a number of BTR-152 APCs captured from the Syrians or supplied by Israel.[22][23][24]


Their artillery corps was equally expanded after obtaining a number of British QF Mk III 25 Pounder field guns,[25] French Mle 1950 BF-50 155mm howitzers, Soviet M1938 (M-30) 122 mm howitzers, British Bofors 40mm L/60 anti-aircraft guns[26] and Soviet S-60 57mm anti-aircraft guns.[27] Soviet KPV 14.5mm, ZPU (ZPU-1, ZPU-2, ZPU-4) 14.5mm, Zastava M55 20mm[28] and ZU-23-2 23mm AA autocannons (mostly mounted on technicals and heavier transport trucks)[29] were employed in the direct fire support role. These artillery pieces were either seized from LAF stocks, acquired on the black market or even provided by Israel and Syria.[30]

Administrative organization and illegal activities

The Phalange was the first Lebanese faction to carve out its own “Canton” in late 1976, designated variously as the “Christian Country”, “Maronite enclave” or “Marounistan”. With a surface of 2,000 square kilometres, the Canton comprised the Metn, most of the Keserwan District (including Bsharri), along with East Beirut, and the coastal districts of Jounieh, Amsheet, Jbeil and Batroun.

Considered by many analysts as the best organized of all militia “fiefs” in the whole of Lebanon under the leadership of "chef" Boutros Khawand, it was administrated by a network of Phalangist-controlled business corporations headed by the GAMMA Group “brain-trust”, backed by the DELTA computer company, and the SONAPORT holding. The latter run since 1975 the legal commercial ports of Jounieh and Beirut, including the infamous clandestine “Dock Five” – “Cinquième basin” in French – from which the Phalange extracted additional revenues by leving illegal taxes and carried out drug- and arms-smuggling operations.

The Canton was also served by a clandestine-built airstrip, the Pierre Gemayel International Airport, opened in 1976 at Hamat, north of Batroun,[31] and had its own radio station "The Voice of Lebanon" (Arabic: Iza’at Sawt Loubnan) or "La Voix du Liban" (VDL) in French set up in that same year.


Stubborn and ruthless fighters with a reputation for racketeering,[32] the Phalangists themselves were not above of committing sectarian violence, a trait they manifested early on in the years leading to the civil war. On 24 March 1970 a squad of Phalange militiamen led by Bashir Gemayel ambushed a PLO funeral cortege heading for Damascus when it passed through the Christian village of Kahala, killing ten people and wounding an even greater number, mostly Palestinians.[33][34]

Apart from being implicated in the early April 1975 “Bus massacre” that helped trigger the civil war, the Kataeb RF perpetrated the infamous “Black Saturday” killings – allegedly carried out by Phalange military commander Joseph Saad in retaliation for the assassination of his son[35] – that killed about 200-300 Lebanese Muslim residents of East Beirut[36][37] and drove 50.000 others out between December 1975 and January 1976.

William Hawi with Kataeb militiamen at Tell al-Zaatar, 1976.

On July–August of that same year, the Phalangists participated alongside its allies, the Army of Free Lebanon, Al-Tanzim, NLP Tigers Militia, Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), the Tyous Team of Commandos (TTC) and the Lebanese Youth Movement (LYM) in the sieges – and subsequent massacres – of Karantina, al-Masklah and Tel al-Zaatar[38] at the Muslim-populated slum districts and adjacent Palestinian refugee camps of East Beirut, and at the town of Dbayeh in the Metn.

The Kataeb RF was equally involved in atrocities committed against rival Christian militias’ and their leaders, namely the Ehden massacre in June 1978 which cost the life of Tony Franjieh, head of the Marada Brigade, and the Safra massacre of July 1980, on which the Phalangists destroyed the NLP Tigers Militia (though they prudently allowed the Tigers’ own Commander Dany Chamoun to escape to exile).[39][40][41][42]

Sporadic clashes with the Lebanese government military and security forces also occurred: during the blockade of Tell al-Zaatar on 11 January 1976, KRF militiamen fired on a Lebanese Army relief convoy that was trying to enter the camp, killing two regular soldiers.[43]

The KRF in the 1975-76 Civil War

During the 1975-76 phase of the Lebanese Civil War, the Kataeb Regulatory Forces’ own mobilization and street action skills allowed the Phalangists to become the primary and most fearsome fighting force in the Christian-conservative camp.[44] In Beirut and elsewhere, Phalange’ militia sections were heavily committed in several battles against Lebanese National Movement (LNM) leftist militias and suffered considerable casualties, notably at the Battle of the Hotels in October 1975[45][46] where they fought the Al-Mourabitoun and the Nasserite Correctionist Movement (NCM), and later at the ‘Spring Offensive’ held against Mount Lebanon in March 1976.

In January 1976, the Phalange joined the main Christian parties – National Liberal Party (NLP), Lebanese Renewal Party (LRP), Marada Brigade, Al-Tanzim, and others – in a loose coalition, the Lebanese Front, designed to act as a political counterweight to the predominantely Muslim LNM alliance. In order to deal with the Syrian military intervention of June 1976 and better coordinate the military operations of their respective militias, Christian militia leaders agreed to form in August that year a joint military command (aka the ‘Command Council’) whose new collective name was the ‘Lebanese Forces’.

Reversals and re-organization 1977-79

From the very beginning, it became clear that the Lebanese Front’s Command Council was dominated by the Phalange and its KRF militia under the charismatic leadership of Bashir Gemayel, who sought to unify the various Christian militias. From 1977 Bashir implemented the controversial ‘unification of the rifle’ policy, on which his KRF units destroyed those smaller militias who had refused to be absorbed voluntarely into the new structure, though not without factional quarreling and setbacks.

The Phalangists’ failure to absorb or destroy the rival Marada Brigade of the Frangieh Clan in the months immediately after the Ehden killings of June 1978 resulted in a severe blow to Bashir’s plans. Not only had the Marada (and the Frangiehs) survived intact despite the loss of their Commander, but also succeeded in defeating and ruthlessly driving the KRF out of the Koura region of northern Lebanon. By the end of 1979, many Kataeb Party’ members who had not been slaughtered by the Marada were forced to flee the area or went underground.

In between, the KRF lent discreet backing to the Army of Free Lebanon (AFL) and the NLP Tigers militias besieged by the Syrian Army respectively on the AFL Fayadieh barracks and the Tigers’ Sodeco HQ at Achrafieh, during the “Hundred Days War” in early February 1978.[47] They later played a key role on August by helping their allies in evicting the remaining Syrian units out from East Beirut.[48]

Consolidation and dissolution 1980-81

Notwithstanding the heavy blow inflicted by the Koura disaster on the Phalangists’ political and military prestige, their unification policy continued unabated. In July 1980 Bashir Gemayel proceeded to dismantle the military infrastructure of the NLP Tigers led by its rival Dany Chamoun, with the KRF destroying the backbone of the National Liberal’s militia and incorporating the rest after fierce fighting in the East Beirut area that lasted until November that year.[49][50] By early November 1980, the integration process had been completed and the Kataeb Regulatory Forces ceased to exist as a separate entity, now replaced by the new Lebanese Forces (LF) militia as the dominant Christian force.

Force 75

The Force 75, also designated the ‘75th Brigade’, was the personal militia of Amin Gemayel, Bashir Gemayel’s elder brother. Technically a territorial unit of the Kataeb Regulatory Forces, the Force 75 usually operated in the north of the Matn region, where it was primarily based, though they also fought at East Beirut, participating in the final phase of the Tell al-Zaatar battle on July–August 1976. Commanded by Sami Khoueiry, former head of the ‘Bashir Gemayel Brigade’,[51] and headquartered at the upper Matn town of Jdeideh, the militia was directly dependent of the Phalange regional committee headed by Amin Gemayel and enjoyed a considerable autonomy from the KRF War Council in Beirut. Raised in 1975-76 with material help from the Lebanese Army and trained by the then Colonel Ibrahim Tannous,[52] the Force 75 was financed by a small network of private business companies that included the ASU, colloquially known as the ‘Amin Special Unit’, which excelled in extracting revenues from local traders in the form of paid services and protection rackets.[53] By December 1980, the Force 75 aligned 3,000 uniformed fighters[54] organized into several motorized light infantry companies on jeeps and light pickups equipped with Heavy machine-guns, recoilless rifles and AA autocannons. That same month however, the militia was forcibly disarmed by the newly constituted Lebanese Forces (LF) on Bashir’s orders and in January 1981 its members were absorbed into the LF structure.

See also


  1. Gordon, The Gemayels (1988), p. 36.
  2. El-Kazen, The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon (2000), p. 303.
  3. Saghieh, Ta’rib al-Kata’eb al-Lubnaniyya… (1991), p. 163.
  4. McGowan, Roberts, Abu Khalil, and Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study (1989), p. 157.
  5. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 45.
  6. Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), pp. 42-45.
  7. Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2003), p. 28.
  8. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 57.
  9. Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2003), p. 30.
  10. Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2003), p. 27.
  11. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 32.
  12. Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), Appendix D, D-4.
  13. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), pp. 57; 59.
  14. http://scale35.blogspot.com/2009/05/panhard-taken-from-lebanese-army-during.html – a Panhard AML-90 employed by the Fakhredine Brigade of the Jisr el-Basha section, Kataeb Regulatory Forces pictured at the siege of Tell al-Zaatar, East Beirut, July 1976.
  15. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), pp. 56-58.
  16. Ludovic Fortin, T17E1 Staghound Armored Car – Le char sur roues, Trucks & Tracks Magazine, December 2007 - January 2008 issue, pp. 48-67.
  17. http://tsahal.miniature.pagesperso-orange.fr/staghound.crusader.html – ex-Lebanese Army Staghound on Kataeb Regulatory Forces' service, c.1976
  18. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), pp. 54-55.
  19. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 62.
  20. Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), Appendix D, D-3.
  21. Miguel “Mig” Jimenez & Jorge Lopez, M41 Bulldog au Liban, Steelmasters Magazine, June–July 2005 issue, pp. 18-22.
  22. Pepin, Steelmasters magazine 113 (2012), p. 24.
  23. Yann Mahé, La Guerre Civile Libanese, un chaos indescriptible! (1975-1990), Trucks & Tanks Magazine 41, January–February 2014, ISSN 1957-4193, p. 79.
  24. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), pp. 58-60.
  25. Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2003), p. 28.
  26. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 57.
  27. Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), pp. 16-21, 32-36, 52; Appendix A, A-10, Table 3; Appendix D, D-5.
  28. Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2003), p. 27.
  29. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 57.
  30. Pepin, Steelmasters magazine 113 (2012), p. 24.
  31. Fisk, Pity the Nation (2001), p. 179.
  32. Randall, Going All the Way (2012), pp. 133-134.
  33. Arab World, 26–27 March (1970), pp. 3 and 2-3.
  34. Randall, Going All the Way (2012), p. 116.
  35. Kassir, La Guerre du Liban… (1994), p. 134.
  36. Fisk, Pity the Nation (2001), p. 79.
  37. Randal, The Tragedy of Lebanon (1990), pp. 84-87.
  38. http://forum.tayyar.org/f8/facts-ag-tal-el-za3tar-28096/index2.html.
  39. Katz, Russel, and Volstad, Armies in Lebanon (1985), p. 8.
  40. Gordon, The Gemayels (1988), p. 55 and 58.
  41. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 79 and 100.
  42. Hoy and Ostrovsky, By Way of Deception (1990), p. 302.
  43. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 43.
  44. Abraham, The Lebanon war (1996), p. 195.
  45. Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), p. 6.
  46. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 29.
  47. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), pp. 72-73.
  48. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), pp. 82-83.
  49. O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 103.
  50. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), pp. 53-54.
  51. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 51.
  52. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 57.
  53. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 51.
  54. Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 56.


Further reading

External links

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