Traditionally and historically a part of Syria, Lebanon's ancient cities of Tyre, Tripoli, and Sidon were key centers of the Phoenician empire. Later, the country was divided among many Christian sects, Druze, and Moslems. The region was strongly dominated by France from the late 18th century and after the first World War, France received Lebanon and Syria as a mandate from the League of Nations. Though Lebanon became a republic in 1926, full independence was not achieved until 1944. Between 1944 and the early 1970s, Lebanon enjoyed a comfortable prosperity based on international banking and trade. This period came to a close as the Palestinians began to use Lebanese territory from which to stage attacks on Israel. In 1975, civil war broke out between Christians against Moslems and the Palestinians joining in against the Maronite Christians. Thousands died and much of the formerly cosmopolitan Beirut was left in ruins. In 1981, Christian militiamen fought Syrian troops and all the others combatants joined in. Israel placed itself in the position of supporting the Christian militiamen and in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to force the PLO out. In fact, the PLO did withdraw from Beirut. In response to the assassination of the newly-elected Christian President Bashir Gemayel, Israeli forces occupied the Moslem areas of west Beirut. The civil war continued, embroiling US personnel as attacks were made on the US embassy and military installations. (The US soldiers killed were part of an international force sent in to Lebanon as part of a cease-fire enforcement plan). Over 240 Marines were killed in one attack. In June 1985, Israel withdrew to a so-called security zone in the south of the country. It took another 5 years for the civil war to completely wind down -- it had cost Lebanon some 150,000 dead and had left the economy in shambles. In the spring of 2000, Israel completed its withdrawal from the southern security zone. It remains to be seen how Lebanon will juggle the conflicting demands of the Palestinians, the Hizbollah faction, the Syrians, and the Israelis, who have warned Lebanon that the country will be held responsible if terrorist activities resume at the Lebanese-Israeli border.