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When a Syrian general spared the Italians in Lebanon "for the beautiful eyes" of Gina Lollobrigida

"I admire Gina Lollobrigida, I like a woman to be beautiful, I have been in love with her since my youth … I sent her letters from the front and everywhere else," the Syrian defense minister said of the actress.

When a Syrian general spared the Italians in Lebanon

Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida on Sept. 18, 1978 at the Château de Poujeaux, in Moulis-en-Médoc, France. (Credit: AFP)

On this rainy Monday, Lebanon and the whole world learned of the death of the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, at the age of 95. In memory of this diva of the silver screen, we bring out from L'Orient-Le Jour's archives this article published in 1998, which tells how the admiration of Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Mustapha Tlass for the actress saved the Italian army from attacks in Lebanon in 1983.

"During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and after the entry of the Multinational Force, I gathered the leaders of the Lebanese resistance and told them: do what you want with the American, British and other forces, but I don't want a single Italian soldier to be injured,” Gen. Tlass had said in an interview published by the Emirati daily al-Bayan.

The Druze leader and current Lebanese minister for the displaced, “Walid Joumblatt asked me why the Italians in particular. I answered: so that not a tear should fall from the eyes of Gina Lollobrigida," Tlass added when questioned by the daily. “I was lucky, the Lebanese resistance obeyed my orders. The Lebanese people gave the Italians the warmest welcome and not a single one of them was injured,” the minister continued. "I admire Gina Lollobrigida, I like a woman to be beautiful, I fell in love with her from my youth …. I sent her letters from the front and from everywhere else,” he said, adding that the actress had only followed up on his correspondence when he became chief of staff in 1968. 

Al-Bayan published a photo of Tlass with Lollobrigida at a reception at the minister's home in 1984 in Damascus. The actress was then 57 years old.

“Everyone was surprised when she came, even my wife Oum Firas. She behaved as if she were part of the family, serving the guests, as if she were at home,” according to the minister, who said he had offered Lollobrigida an old Damascene saber as a souvenir.

In Rome, meanwhile, the Italian actress expressed her joy at learning that the Syrian defense minister had spared the Italian army from suffering attacks in Lebanon because of his admiration for her. "If all my admirers were like the Syrian minister and really succeeded in stopping terrorism, I would immediately start going around the world," Gina Lollobrigida told the press, confirming that Tlass was "really one of his great admirers for many years.

"I met him, if my memories are correct, in 1980," confided the famous interpreter of Esmeralda in "Notre-Dame de Paris." “He is a very cultured and kind person. He always sent me letters and valuable gifts such as jewelry or antiques,” she added, explaining that she was pleasantly surprised when she saw him for the first time.

"He's a handsome, elegant man," she said. “I went to see him one day by surprise several years ago. Recognizing me, he almost fainted. Since then, I have not seen him again, but he has continued to give me news of himself," she continued before adding: “With the Arabs I have always had success. They say that I have all the qualities and that with me one could even do without a harem."



On this rainy Monday, Lebanon and the whole world learned of the death of the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, at the age of 95. In memory of this diva of the silver screen, we bring out from L'Orient-Le Jour's archives this article published in 1998, which tells how the admiration of Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Mustapha Tlass for the actress saved the Italian army from attacks in Lebanon in...