Second Lebanon War

(2006)
   On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah fighters launched an attack across the Blue Line border from Lebanon into northern Israel, attacked Israeli soldiers, shot and killed eight of them, and captured two others (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) and took them back across the border. Hezbollah simultaneously began to shell northern Israel and Haifa using Katyusha rockets provided by Iran and Syria. Israel's response was that the soldiers needed to be released and not exchanged for existing prisoners in Israeli hands.
   Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called this an "act of war," and Israel's massive air campaign on targets in Lebanon was the initial response. Israel bombed Hezbollah strongholds in the south, and to prevent the supply of arms from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah, Israel launched air attacks against Beirut's airport and major land routes, while a naval blockade prevented shipping from entering or leaving the ports. Israel attacked Hezbollah targets—including weapons storehouses and missile launching points—across the country. Thousands of foreign nationals eventually were evacuated from the war zone.
   Meanwhile, Hezbollah attacked Israel with rockets fired on northern Israeli cities, towns, and villages, including Haifa, Israel's third-largest city and major port. Israel called up reservists and a ground incursion by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) led to the taking of villages and towns south of the Litani River. Israeli forces met fierce resistance from Hezbollah fighters entrenched in underground bunkers, tunnels, and caves who were armed with sophisticated antitank and other weapons that appeared to have been supplied by Iran and Syria.
   Hezbollah believed that Israel's response to the kidnapping would be limited. It miscalculated. Israel had additional considerations—its military planners saw Hezbollah as the long arm of Iran. The Israeli war effort was aimed at restoring Israel's deterrent power, removing the Hezbollah rocket threat, and creating conditions for the return of the abducted soldiers.
   The initial Israeli air strikes were highly successful. On the night of 12 July, the Israeli air force destroyed most of Hezbollah's Iranian-made Zilzal long-range rockets, which were believed capable of hitting Tel Aviv. Over the next few days, the air force reduced Hezbollah's Beirut headquarters to rubble, destroyed weapon stores, and killed dozens of elite Hezbollah fighters, but it soon became apparent that incessant Hezbollah rocket fire from mobile launchers could only be stopped by a large-scale ground operation. This did not happen until the last days of the war, and Hezbollah was able to continue firing more than 100 rockets a day at Israeli civilians in the north and claim victory on the grounds that Israel had been unable to stop the Katyusha rocket fire.
   A cease-fire was instituted on 14 August 2006, on the 34th day of the war, the operative provision of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1701 of 11 August 2006. It called for a "robust" version of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be installed in southern Lebanon essentially between the Litani River and the Blue Line to prevent Hezbollah from reestablishing itself there and using the area to attack Israel. The deployment to southern Lebanon of a more robust UNIFIL was a positive feature of the outcome of hostilities. At the same time, the Lebanese armed forces also deployed in southern Lebanon for the first time in decades. Thus, Hezbollah was removed from the border zone that was its base of operations for attacks against Israel both before and during the 2006 hostilities.
   Estimates of the number of Lebanese killed varied from about 850 to 1,200. The number of Israelis killed was put at 44 civilians and 119 soldiers between 12 July and 14 August, with 4,262 civilians wounded. UN officials estimated that 1 million Lebanese and 300,000 Israelis had been displaced by the fighting. More than 1 million Israelis were forced to live in shelters as some 4,000 rockets landed on Israel, of which more than 900 hit communities in more than 160 Israeli cities, town, villages, kibbutzim, and moshavim. The cost of the war—measured, for example, in terms of physical damage to northern Israel caused by Hezbollah rockets and lost man-hours in industrial productivity—was conservatively estimated in the billions of shekels. Under public pressure, the Olmert-led government agreed to establish separate commissions to investigate the handling of the Second Lebanon War by the government, military, and Home Front Command. The IDF completed its withdrawal from Lebanon on 1 October 2006.
   The war with Hezbollah had both positive and negative aspects. Militarily Israel dealt Hezbollah a severe blow—Hezbollah lost its control of and its position on, the Lebanon-Israel border. Its weapons systems were destroyed and degraded, and it lost much of its arsenal of long-range missiles and suffered serious casualties, both killed and wounded. But at the same time, Hezbollah survived (as did Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general) and could sustain what it termed "its resistance" against Israel, still able to fire more than 100 rockets a day against Israeli civilian targets.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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