January 16th 1986, Hell at 6:00 am.
All of a sudden, following a sultry and deadly hush, a shower of shells slammed Hobeika’s headquarters. The preliminaries of the actual assault was like an attack against the Palestinians in the “Two-Year War” but with more sophisticated heavy artillery and weaponry.
Hobeika and Elie Murr ran to the ground floor and hid in Mario’s office. News came in that heavy fighting was occurring in Tabarja around the Lebanese Forces barracks and the ATCL Naval Base. There were a great number of casualties already. Adma Barracks, with 150 combatants, surrendered without fighting. The commander, Touma Sueidane, was acted like a coward even though he was responsible for the protection of Hobeika’s residence. The whole operation was marked by treachery, cowardice, and miscalculation.
I was in the room when Hobeika, in a fit of rage, desperately throwing his weight about and ordering the boys to keep on fighting. Instead of obeying, the boys fell back. Many fled, dozens fell, dead or wounded. It was a massacre.
Hobeika was, by then, convinced that his Intelligence and Security Group, under the command of Assad Shaftari and the Special Operation forces, had betrayed him. The group included: Gaby Bustany, alias Abou Habib; Mario Simonides; and, Percy Kemp. They were in charge of Security and Intelligence and knew that D-Day was January 15, 1986, at 6:00 a.m. They hushed the information. Pierre Rizk, the triple Agent had managed to buy off the group. Pierre Rizk was later exploited by Geagea to open channels with Iraq and the Palestinians, then sided up with Amin Gemayel and became close to Yasser Arafat.
Hobeika had been warned time and again about betrayal but he did not heed the advise. I would say his own arrogance and underestimation of Geagea and Amine betrayed him. Hobeika’s refusal to face this fact brought him down and us along with him. The week preceding Geagea’s assault, Hobeika was continuously pressed by his officers to prepare himself for an all out attack. Hobeika cynically replied, “Geagea can’t do anything!”
Since 1984, Hobeika was obnubilated by his political ambition, contacts, and money. He had delegated his security powers to Assad Shaftari, his man-of-all-trades. It was during that time that Shaftari had been instructed by Hobeika to prepare a Special Force to storm the houses of all of Amine Gemayel’s lieutenants and kill 23 of them. There were 70 crack shots from the Security force and 30 shock troops were prepared. The night of the Operation, Shaftary backed out. I never knew why.
On January 15, 1986, at 8:00 a.m., the heaviest fighting took place at Badawi Nahr at the Borj Hammoud bridge junction at the feet of a Casino “le Rouge et le Noir”. The place was between the North Matn Militia commanded by Rashid Gemayel, and Al Amn (Intelligence) fighters. The battle resulted in a great number of casualties.
Michel Zouein, commanding the tank battalion, fought valiantly to open a way for Hobeika to flee but all his tanks were destroyed. Zouein was loyal to Hobeika. Once again, innocent loyal partisans fell for individual ambitions, without even post mortem glory.
Suddenly, at 2:00 p.m. the shelling stopped. Hobeika pressed Toto Breidi for a cease-fire and called up the Defense Ministry. Hobeika had a direct line to the Defense Ministry. He begged General Aoun for assistance to no avail. Michel Murr, was agonizing over his son and wanted him out of the hell whatever the cost. He knew that Samir Geagea and Nader Succar would never let Hobeika and Murr’s son out alive. We learned later that Succar’s orders were to kill Hobeika inside the building. The Syrians finally intervened with Army Commander General Aoun and Hikmat El Shehabi negotiated his safe conduct to the Defense Ministry against his exile from Lebanon.
Finally realizing he had been defeated, he opened his safe and ordered me to take all of the “Red Files” and burn them myself. He insisted that no one else was to help me. I did what I was asked to do. I did not leave a single paper lying about while the hell continued around me. I was advised that Assaad Shaftari had all of the documents on film which was hidden in a safe at a Beirut bank.
In the early afternoon, Lebanese Army Commander Michel Aoun sent Captain Paul Mattar and his tanks to drive Hobeika out safely to Yarzeh. However, it was Paul Andari, one of Geagea’s top ranking lieutenants who entered the building. Andari‘s orders were strict, no arms were to be taken out. Only Elie Hobeika’s close guards were permitted to leave with their individual weapons. Emile Eid stood at the entrance, searching every single person, military or civilian coming out, head down, worn out and despondent. He stole their wallets with their pocket money and personal papers. Emile Eid, later became a leading member of the Kataeb Party politic bureau, and the Party’s President George Saadeh‘s puppet!
Could this be true? Hobeika “dethroned”, “the Shabab” dishonored or dead and for what? A dirty battle between the pillars of the Christian Cause, who turned their guns against their respective followers, killing them without compunction or repugnance. What was more, it was not the end of our ordeal.