Ex-SLA chief Antoine Lahad dies at 88

Former IDF ally, who fled to Israel following Lebanon withdrawal, suffers heart attack on holiday in France

Antoine Lahad speaking to the media in 2006 (screen capture:YouTube)
Antoine Lahad speaking to the media in 2006 (screen capture:YouTube)

Antoine Lahad, the head of Israel’s erstwhile militia allies in Lebanon, died in Paris on Thursday morning at the age of 88, the French-language Lebanese newspaper L’Orient Le Jour reported Friday. According to the report, he suffered a heart attack.

Lahad led the South Lebanon Army (SLA) until late May 2000, when Israel pulled its troops out of its cross-border security zone in an unannounced overnight withdrawal. Lahad, who was in France at the time, was caught unaware by the move. He was denied residency in France, where his family lived, and ended up in Israel.

He told Israel’s Ynet website in 2006 that he had not supported a unilateral pullout by Israel on the grounds that it had only served to strengthen the extremist Hezbollah movement, its key foe — and Israel’s.

“I didn’t oppose the withdrawal. On the contrary, I was even in France at that time on a mission to check what the chance was that a French force would enter in place of the SLA when Israel withdrew quickly, but I vehemently opposed a withdrawal without an agreement, and look what happened,” he told Ynet. “When we were there, did Hezbollah have missiles? They had machine guns at most. My people held 46 outposts and the IDF another 11, and the entire picture was completely different.”

In 2004, Lahad published his autobiography in Hebrew, entitled In the Midst of a Storm: An Autobiography.

In the wake of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon in 1982, Hezbollah condemned Lahad to death. A Lebanese court also sentenced him to death in absentia in May 2014, convicting him of treason, murder and sharing intelligence with the enemy.

He had spent the past five years in Paris, L’Orient Le Jour said.

His funeral has tentatively been set to take place in Paris on September 18, the newspaper reported, followed by another ceremony at his birthplace in the village of Atara in southern Lebanon.

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