Who’s Shooting Who?

July, 1986: In Beirut, it pays to know your terrorist.

To celebrate the long-awaited return of The Face, we have selected a stand-out story from each year of our extensive archive, from 1980 to 2004.

Remembered by photographer Oliver Maxwell

The feature came about when I came across Osprey’s Men-at-Arms series of books in Foyles on Charing Cross Road. (‘Packed with specially commissioned artwork, maps and diagrams, the Men-at-Arms series of books is an unrivalled illustrated reference on the history, organisation, uniforms and equipment of the world’s military forces, past and present.’) I felt that few people at the time understood what was going on in the Middle East, in particular, Lebanon, and thought a shoot featuring the uniforms would be a good way to illustrate the different factions fighting each other. I took the notion to Features Editor Paul Rambali, who was always open to new ideas outside of the usual remit. There was talk of us at one point going over there but Nick [Logan] vetoed it on the grounds of safety and insurance. When the story appeared there was a lot of fuss in the press at the time, with articles and letters in The Guardian, Time Out and Liberation in France amongst others, with diggy headlines like Beirut Bungle’ and Face Values’. Most of the fuss stemmed from the headline on the cover: Beirut Fashion’. It was meant to be ironic but was taken far too literally. As it happens the images were recently featured in an exhibition, Iconography of Revolt, at the City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, which also referenced the article.”

Oliver Maxwell is a photographer, designer and music producer. Long a resident of Barcelona, he recently moved up the coast to Calella to open a bar/​restaurant for reasons of cultural health”.



Christian Phalangists, Fanatical Shi’ites, Druze, Militiamen, Syrian Commandoes… It’s now almost two years since the Israelis drove the PLO from Lebanon, but the Civil War there goes on between Muslim and Christian factions. Don’t even ask why they’re shooting each other, but these are the key adversaries.

Israeli Kommando Yami (Naval Commando)

Operation Peace for Galilee’ was planned to purge the PLO from within 40 miles of Israel’s borders. The Israelis borders. The Israelis invaded in June 82 northwards along the coast and inland along the Golan Heights, aiming to surround the PLO. As the political furore grew, they pushed on further to Beirut, aided by frogmen landing at night to plant mines.

PLO Sniper

The PLO moved their HQ to Lebanon in 1970 after having been violently expelled from Jordan during the infamous Black September’. 150,000 Palestinians arrived to join over half a million who fled there when they were ousted from the new state of Israel founded in 1948. Lebanon was the last territory bordering Israel that would host the PLO, but was unable to control the southern border areas and camps where guerillas trained and from which they launched attacks on Israelis.

PFLP Mujahadin

A faction of the PLO, the Popular Front for the Liberation Southern city of Damour. With its various splinter groups and unruly military command, the PLO added to the political confusion of the Lebanon, but broadly allied itself to leftist Muslim groups or militias. The Mujahadin (“Freedom Fighters”) fought the invading Israelis especially bitterly.


A Militiaman belonging to the Phalange, a Christian party led by the late President Bashir Gemayel, who eliminated rival Christian families the Chamouns and the Frangeihs via bloody shootings in the late Seventies. As leader of the Maronite Christians, in the midst of an unholy alliance of Muslims and Marxists, he encouraged Israel to help rid the lands of Palestinians but they found him an unreliable ally. It was Phalangists who cleared’ the refugee camps at Sabra and Chatilla…

Italian Marine, Battiglione San Marco

Italian, French and American troops were part of the Multi-National Force brought in to supervise the PLO withdrawal from Beirut.

Druze Magist (Machine Gunner)

The Druze Muslims supported the Palestinians but did not allow them to operate on their lands nor did they fight the Israelis. Like the Shi’ites, whose Syrian-backed fanatics began truck bombing in 83, they had most to fear from the Christian Phalangists.

Syrian Commando

Viewing the Lebanon historically as part of their lands, the neighbouring Syrians have long tried to influence events there, sending forces to help one Muslim faction another. By 1981, much of the Lebanon was under their control. Their missiles were aimed at Israel, who wanted an excuse to remove them.

IDF Golani Infantryman

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) succeded in decimating the PLO, exiled in Libya with 1,500 dead compared to 368 Israelis. Nearly 300 IDF soldiers have died since in sniper fire, street battles and truck bombings. Lebanese civilian casualties are estimated at around 5,000, as the various Muslim and Christian factions continue to squable for power.

IDF Shoter Tzvai (Military Police)

Military Police administered the many thousands of PLO guerillas and staff captured in the fighting along with other Muslim militiamen. They also held some 1,800 foreigners from 26 countries who were training in PLO camps.

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