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In 1969, Palestinians across Lebanon declared that they were carrying out a revolution in their refugee camps. Nationalist militants known as fidaiyyin* ousted state security authorities from the camps and took charge themselves, asserting control over access and services. The new status quo was codified in the Cairo Agreement, signed the same year between the Lebanese government and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organisation. Around the same time, the fidaiyyin took control of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), previously overseen by the Arab League, and established the infrastructure of a pseudo-state in exile. Until the Israeli invasion and siege of Beirut in 1982, the PLO not only trained thousands of fighters but also provided healthcare services, ran social clubs, and organised cultural facilities in refugee camps across the country. Numerous Palestinian refugees and nationalist leaders, along with a range of historians and sociologists, have termed this period al thawra al filastiniya (‘the Palestinian revolution’), or simply the ‘days of the thawra’ – revolution.

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Working paper


Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Durham University

Publication Date



Durham Middle East Paper No. 103

Total pages