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2006 Lebanon War
Part of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israeli-Lebanese conflict
Tyre air strike.jpg
Smoke over Tyre after an Israeli bombardment.
Date 12 July 2006—14 August 2006
Israeli blockade of Lebanon ended on 8 September 2006
Location Lebanon and Israel
Result Ceasefire, provisioned by UNSC Resolution 1701.
Belligerents
 Israel Flag of Hezbollah.svg Hezbollah
Flag of the Amal Movement.svg Amal[1]
Flag of the Lebanese Communist Party.svg LCP[2]
Palestinian territories PFLP-GC[3]
Commanders
Israel Ehud Olmert
Israel Amir Peretz
Israel Dan Halutz
Israel Moshe Kaplinsky[4]
Israel Udi Adam
Israel Eliezer Shkedi
Israel David Ben Ba'ashat
Flag of Hezbollah.svg Hassan Nasrallah
Flag of Hezbollah.svg Imad Mughniyeh
Strength
10,000 soldiers (30,000 soldiers in the last few days) (+ IAF & ISC)[5][6] 600–1,000 active fighters (5,000–10,000 in the last few days)
10,000 reservists[7]
Casualties and losses
Israel Defense Forces:

121 killed
(including 2 captured bodies)
628 wounded[8]

Hezbollah militia:

Dead:
~250 (Hezbollah est.)[9]
≤500 (Lebanese officials' est.)[10]
~500 (UN officials' est.)[11]
~600 (IDF est.)[12]
(including over 200 captured bodies).[13] Wounded: Unknown Captured: 13[14] (9 released)
Amal militia: 17 dead
LCP militia: 12 dead
PFLP-GC militia: 2 dead


Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp: ~6-9[15][16]
Lebanese Army: 28 dead[17]

Israeli civilians:

44 dead[18][19]
33 seriously wounded[20]
68 moderately wounded[20]
1,388 lightly wounded[20]


Lebanese civilians:
1,191[21] dead
4,409 injured[21]


Foreign civilians:
53 dead[22]
25 wounded


United Nations:
5 dead
12 wounded[23]

For total casualty figures, see: Casualties of the 2006 Lebanon War

The 2006 Lebanon War, also called the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War and known in Lebanon as the July War[24] (Arabic: حرب تموز‎, Ḥarb Tammūz) and in Israel as the Second Lebanon War (Hebrew: מלחמת לבנון השנייה‎, Milhemet Levanon HaShniya),[25] was a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. The principal parties were Hezbollah paramilitary forces and the Israeli military. The conflict started on 12 July 2006, and continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect in the morning on 14 August 2006, though it formally ended on 8 September 2006 when Israel lifted its naval blockade of Lebanon.

The conflict began when Hezbollah militants fired rockets at Israeli border towns as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence.[26] Of the seven Israeli soldiers in the two jeeps, two were wounded, five were killed, and two soldiers were taken to Lebanon.[26] Eight more were killed in a failed Israeli rescue attempt. Israel responded with massive airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon that damaged Lebanese civilian infrastructure, including Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport (which Israel alleged that Hezbollah used to import weapons and supplies),[27] an air and naval blockade,[28] and a ground invasion of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah then launched more rockets into northern Israel and engaged the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in guerrilla warfare from hardened positions.[29]

The conflict killed at least one and a half thousand people, mostly Lebanese civilians,[30][31][32][33][34] severely damaged Lebanese civil infrastructure, and displaced approximately one million Lebanese[35] and 300,000–500,000 Israelis, although most of the latter were able to return to their homes.[20][36][37] After the ceasefire, some parts of southern Lebanon remained uninhabitable due to Israeli unexploded cluster bomblets.[38]

On 11 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved UN Resolution 1701 in an effort to end the hostilities. The resolution, which was approved by both Lebanese and Israeli governments the following days, called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon, and for the deployment of Lebanese soldiers and an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) force in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL was given an expanded mandate, including the ability to use force to ensure that their area of operations wasn't used for hostile activities, and to resist attempts by force to prevent them from discharging their duties.[39] The Lebanese army began deploying in southern Lebanon on 17 August 2006. The blockade was lifted on 8 September 2006.[40] On 1 October 2006, most Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon, though the last of the troops continue to occupy the border-straddling village of Ghajar.[41] In the time since the enactment of UNSCR 1701 both the Lebanese government and UNIFIL have stated that they will not disarm Hezbollah.[42][43][44] The remains of the two captured soldiers, whose fates were unknown, were returned to Israel on 16 July 2008 as part of a prisoner exchange.

Contents

Background

Cross-border attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) date as far back as 1968, and followed Israel's capture of additional Arab territory the previous year; the area became a significant base for attacks following the arrival of the PLO leadership and its Fatah brigade following their 1971 expulsion from Jordan. Starting about this time, increasing demographic tensions related to the Lebanese National Pact, which had divided governmental powers among religious groups throughout the country 30 years previously, began running high and led in part to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). Concurrently, Syria began a 29 year military occupation in 1976. Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon failed to stem the Palestinian attacks, but Israel invaded Lebanon again in 1982 and forcibly expelled the PLO.[45] Israel withdrew to a borderland buffer zone in southern Lebanon, held with the aid of proxy militants in the South Lebanon Army (SLA).[46] The invasion however, also led to the conception of a new Shi'a militant group, which in 1985, established itself politically under the name Hezbollah, and declared an armed struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory.[47][48] When the Lebanese civil war ended and other warring factions agreed to disarm, both Hezbollah and the SLA refused. Ten years later, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon to the UN-designated and internationally recognized Blue Line border in 2000.

The withdrawal also led to the immediate collapse of the SLA, and Hezbollah took control of the area in rapid succession. Later citing continued Israeli control of the disputed Shebaa farms region and the internment of Lebanese prisoners in Israel, Hezbollah intensified its cross-border attacks, and used the tactic of seizing soldiers from Israel as leverage for a prisoner exchange in 2004.[49][50]

Abduction efforts in the year prior to conflict

In June 2005, an Israel Defence Force paratroop unit operating near the Shebaa Farms engaged three Lebanese it identified as Hezbollah special force members, killing one. Videotapes recovered by the paratroopers contained footage of the three recording detailed accounts of the area and "fooling around".[51]

Over the following 12 months, Hezbollah made three unsuccessful attempts to abduct Israeli soldiers. On November 21, 2005, a number of Hezbollah special forces attempted to attack an Israeli outpost in Ghajar, a village straddling the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. The outpost had been deserted following an intelligence warning, and three of the Hezbollah militants were killed when an Israeli marksman caused the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade they were carrying. A fourth gunman was killed shortly thereafter.[51][52]

Beginning of conflict

At around 8:07 AM local time (05:07 UTC) on 12 July 2006, Hezbollah launched diversionary rocket attacks toward Israeli military positions near the coast and near the border village of Zar'it[53] as well as on the Israeli town of Shlomi and other villages.[54] At the same time, a Hezbollah ground contingent crossed the border into Israeli territory and attacked two Israeli armoured Humvees patrolling on the Israeli side of the Israel-Lebanon border, near Zar'it, killing three, injuring two, and capturing two Israeli soldiers (master sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and first sergeant Eldad Regev).[53][55] Five more Israeli soldiers were killed, and a tank was destroyed on the Lebanese side of the border during an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the two prisoners of war.

Hezbollah named the attack "Operation Truthful Promise" after leader Hassan Nasrallah's public pledges over the prior year and a half to seize Israeli soldiers and swap them for four Lebanese held by Israel:

  • Samir Kuntar (a Lebanese citizen captured during a terrorist attack in 1979, convicted of murdering civilians and a police officer);
  • Nasim Nisr (an Israeli-Lebanese citizen tried and convicted for spying by Israel);
  • Yahya Skaf (a Lebanese citizen whom Hezbollah claims was arrested in Israel, Israel denies);[56][57]
  • Ali Faratan (another Lebanese citizen whom Hezbollah claims to be held in Israel).

Nasrallah claimed that Israel had broken a previous deal to release these prisoners, and since diplomacy had failed, violence was the only remaining option.[56] Nasrallah declared: "No military operation will return the Israeli captured soldiers...The prisoners will not be returned except through one way: indirect negotiations and a trade of prisoners."[58]

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the seizure of the soldiers as an "act of war" by the sovereign country of Lebanon,[59][60] stating that "Lebanon will bear the consequences of its actions"[61] and promising a "very painful and far-reaching response."[62] Israel blamed the Lebanese government for the raid, as it was carried out from Lebanese territory and Hezbollah had two ministers serving in the Lebanese cabinet at that time.[63] In response, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora denied any knowledge of the raid and stated that he did not condone it.[64][65] An emergency meeting of the Lebanese government reaffirmed this position.[66]

The Israel Defense Forces attacked targets within Lebanon with artillery and airstrikes hours before the Israeli Cabinet met to discuss a response. The Israeli Air Force bombed several areas in Lebanon (bridges and roads, the Beirut airport),[67] killing 44 civilians.[68] The Israeli Air Force also targeted Hezbollah’s long range rocket and missile stockpiles destroying most of them on the ground in the first days of the war.[69]

Later that same day (12 July 2006), the Cabinet decided to authorize the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and their deputies to pursue the plan which they had proposed for action within Lebanon. Prime Minister Olmert's officially demanded that the Israeli Defense Force avoid civilian casualties whenever possible.[70] Israel's chief of staff Dan Halutz said, "if the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years"[71] while the head of Israel's Northern Command Udi Adam said, "this affair is between Israel and the state of Lebanon. Where to attack? Once it is inside Lebanon, everything is legitimate -- not just southern Lebanon, not just the line of Hezbollah posts."[71] On 12 July 2006, the Israeli Cabinet promised that Israel would "respond aggressively and harshly to those who carried out, and are responsible for, today's action".[72] The Cabinet's communiqué stated, in part, that the "Lebanese Government [was] responsible for the action that originated on its soil."[72] A retired Israeli Army Colonel explained that the rationale behind the attack was to create a rift between the Lebanese population and Hezbollah supporters by exacting a heavy price from the elite in Beirut.[73]

On 16 July, the Israeli Cabinet released a communiqué explaining that, although Israel had engaged in military operations within Lebanon, its war was not against the Lebanese government. The communiqué stated: "Israel is not fighting Lebanon but the terrorist element there, led by Nasrallah and his cohorts, who have made Lebanon a hostage and created Syrian- and Iranian-sponsored terrorist enclaves of murder."[74]

When asked in August about the proportionality of the response, Prime Minister Olmert stated that the "war started not only by killing eight Israeli soldiers and abducting two but by shooting Katyusha and other rockets on the northern cities of Israel on that same morning. Indiscriminately." He added "no country in Europe would have responded in such a restrained manner as Israel did."[75]

Hezbollah action

Map showing some of the Israeli localities attacked by rockets fired from Lebanese soil as of Monday 7 August.

During the campaign Hezbollah fired between 3,970 and 4,228 rockets at an unprecedented rate of more than 100 per day.[citation needed] About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in) Katyusha artillery rockets, which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 lb) and had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi).[76][77] An estimated 23% of these rockets hit cities and built-up areas across northern Israel, while the remainder hit open areas.[76][78][79] Cities hit included Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Shaghur, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She'an, Karmiel, and Maalot, and dozens of Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages, as well as the northern West Bank.[76][78][79][80][81][82] [83]

Hezbollah also engaged in guerrilla warfare with the IDF, attacking from well-fortified positions. These attacks by small, well-armed units caused serious problems for the IDF, especially through the use of sophisticated Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). According to Merkava tank program administration, 52 Merkava main battle tanks were damaged (45 of them by different kinds of ATGM), missiles penetrated 22 tanks, but only 5 tanks were totally destroyed (2 of them by improvised explosive devices). Hezbollah caused additional casualties using ATGMs to collapse buildings onto Israeli troops sheltering inside.[79]

After the initial Israeli response, Hezbollah declared an all-out military alert. Hezbollah was estimated to have 13,000 missiles at the beginning of the conflict.[84] Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Hezbollah as a trained, skilled, well-organized, and highly motivated infantry that was equipped with the cream of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia, and China.[85] Hezbollah's satellite TV station Al-Manar reported that the attacks had included a Fajr-3 and a Ra'ad 1, both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran.[86][87][88]

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended the attacks, saying that Hezbollah had "started to act calmly, we focused on Israel[i] military bases and we didn’t attack any settlement, however, since the first day, the enemy attacked Lebanese towns and murdered civilians — Hezbollah combatants had destroyed military bases, while the Israelis killed civilians and targeted Lebanon's infrastructure."[89] Hezbollah called on the Arabs of the Israeli city of Haifa to flee,[90] and continued launching rockets into northern Israel.[91]

According to a UN report, approximately around mid-July 2006, the Somalian Islamic Courts Union (ICU) sent about 720 men to Lebanon to fight alongside Hezbollah against the Israeli military. In exchange for the contribution of the Somali military force, Hezbollah arranged for additional support to be given to ICU by the governments of Iran and Syria. However, doubts on the accuracy of this UN report have been raised by both The New York Times, The Jamestown Foundation and initial Israeli reaction.[92][93]

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Timeline

  • On 12 July, Hezbollah launched rocket attacks on Zar'it, Shlomi, and other areas. Hezbollah troops entered Israel and attacked two armoured IDF Humvees. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the ground attack, two were wounded, captured, and taken to Lebanon.
  • On 13 July, Hezbollah launched rockets at Haifa for the first time, hitting a cable car station along with a few other buildings.
  • On 14 July, Hezbollah attacked the INS Hanit, an Israeli navy Sa'ar 5-class corvette enforcing a naval blockade, with a what was believed to be a radar-guided C-802 anti-ship missile. Four sailors were killed and the warship was severely damaged. The ship was repaired and reassumed its combat role in Lebanon three weeks later[94]
  • On 17 July, Hezbollah hit a railroad repair depot, killing eight workers. Hezbollah asserted that this attack was aimed at a large Israeli fuel storage plant adjacent to the railway facility. Haifa is home to many strategically valuable facilities such as shipyards and oil refineries.[95][96]
  • On 18 July, Hezbollah hit a hospital in Safed in northern Galilee, wounding eight.[97]
  • On 27 July, Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed eight soldiers. Israel said it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.[98]
  • On 3 August, Nasrallah warned Israel against hitting Beirut and promised retaliation against Tel Aviv if the warning wasn't heeded.[99] He also stated that Hezbollah would stop its rocket campaign if Israel ceased aerial and artillery strikes of Lebanese towns and villages.[100]
  • On 4 August, Israel targeted the southern outskirts of Beirut, and later in the day, Hezbollah launched rockets at the Hadera region.[101]
  • On 6 August, 12 army reservists resting near the Lebanon border were killed in the deadliest barrage of Hezbollah rocket attacks so far. Three Israeli civilians were also killed in a dusk attack in the port of Haifa.[102]
  • On 9 August, nine Israeli soldiers were killed when the building they were taking cover in was struck by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile and collapsed.
  • On 12 August, 24 Israeli soldiers were killed; the worst Israeli loss in a single day. Out of those 24, five soldiers were killed when Hezbollah shot down an Israeli helicopter, a first for Hezbollah.[103] Hezbollah claimed the helicopter had been attacked with a Waad missile.[104]

Israeli action

During the campaign Israel's Air Force flew more than 12,000 combat missions, its Navy fired 2,500 shells, and its Army fired over 100,000 shells.[79] Large parts of the Lebanese civilian infrastructure were destroyed, including 400 miles (640 km) of roads, 73 bridges, and 31 other targets such as Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, 25 fuel stations, 900 commercial structures, up to 350 schools and two hospitals, and 15,000 homes. Some 130,000 more homes were damaged.[105][106][107][108]

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered commanders to prepare civil defense plans. One million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters or security rooms, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating the north and relocating to other areas of the country.[76]

Areas in Lebanon targeted by Israeli bombing, 12 July to 13 August 2006.

Timeline

IDF Caterpillar D9N armored bulldozers destroy Hizbullah's bunker.
  • Early on 13 July 2006, Israel bombed Rafic Hariri International Airport, Lebanon's only commercial airport, forcing its closure and diversion of incoming flights to Cyprus. Israel believed that the airport had been used by Hezbollah for smuggling arms. Israel subsequently imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon, and bombed the main Beirut –Damascus highway.[109] Attacks also centered on Hezbollah’s long range missile and rocket stockpiles, most of which were destroyed in the first days of conflict.[69]
  • On 14 July 2006 the IDF bombed Nasrallah's offices in Beirut.[110] Nasrallah addressed Israel, saying “You wanted an open war, and we are heading for an open war. We are ready for it.”[111]
  • On 15 July 2006 The Israeli Air Force targeted and destroyed Hezbollah Headquarters in Haret Hreik.[112]
  • On 15 July 2006 the IAF attacked and destroyed Lebanon’s coastal radars.[113]
  • On 23 July 2006 Israeli land forces crossed into Lebanon in the Maroun al-Ras area, which overlooks several other locations said to have been used as launch sites for Hezbollah rockets.[114]
  • On 25 July 2006 IDF engaged Hezbollah forces in the Battle of Bint Jbeil.
  • On 26 July 2006 Israeli forces attacked and destroyed an UN observer post. Described as a nondeliberate attack by Israel, the post was shelled for hours before being bombed. UN forces made repeated calls to alert Israeli forces of the danger to the UN observers, all four of whom were killed. Rescuers were shelled as they attempted to reach the post.[115][116]
Satellite photographs of the Haret Hreik, a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood [Dahieh district] of southern Beirut, Lebanon, before and after July 22, 2006. The neighborhood is home to Hezbollah's headquarters. See also high resolution photographs before and "after". Archived from the original on 2007-08-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20070821013412/http://www.digitalglobe.com/images/qb/beirut_harat_july22_2006_dgwm.jpg. .
  • On 28 July 2006 Israeli paratroopers killed more than 20 Hezbollah militants in Bint Jbeil.[117]
  • On 30 July 2006 Israeli airstrikes hit an apartment building in Qana, killing 28 civilians, more than half of them children.[118] The airstrike was widely condemned.
  • On 31 July 2006 Israeli military forces engaged Hezbollah in the Battle of Ayta ash-Shab.
  • On 2 August 2006 Israeli commandos ferried by helicopter stormed a Hezbollah stronghold in Baalbek, 62 miles from the border, killing several gunmen. The commando assault was codenamed Operation Sharp and Smooth[119]
  • On 4 August 2006 the IAF attacked a building in the area of al-Qaa around 10 kilometers from Hermel in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. 33 farm workers were killed during the airstrike.
  • On 5 August 2006 Israeli commandos carried out a nighttime raid in Tyre killing senior commanders in Hezbollah’s strategic rocket-launch network.[120].
  • On 7 August 2006 the IAF attacked the Shiyyah suburb in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, destroying three apartment buildings in the suburb, killing at least 50 people.
  • On 7 August the Israeli Air Force shot down a Hezbollah Unmanned Aerial Drone (UAV)[121]
  • On 12 August 2006 the IDF launches the 2006 Litani offensive in South Lebanon. Over the weekend Israeli forces in southern Lebanon nearly tripled in size.[122][123]
  • On 13 August The Israeli Air Force shot down two Hezbollah UAVs one of which was carrying at least 30 kilograms of explosives[124][125]
  • On 14 August 2006 the Israeli Air Force reported that they had killed the head of Hezbollah’s Special Forces, whom they identified as Sajed Dewayer, while Hezbollah denied this claim.[126]
  • During the Litani offensive, Israeli troops and armor engage Hezbollah fighters in The Battle of Wadi Saluki. Israeli tanks and infantry attacked the hill of Wadi Saluki. The tanks took heavy fire from well-placed anti-tank positions, but Israeli forces fought their way to the top of the hill and stormed the anti-tank positions. 12 Israeli soldiers and 80 Hezbollah fighters were killed.
  • 80 minutes before the cessation of hostilities, the IDF targeted a Palestinian faction in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, killing a UNRWA staff member.[127]

Position of Lebanon

While the Israeli government initially held the Lebanese government responsible for the Hezbollah attacks due to Lebanon's failure to implement Resolution 1559 and disarm Hezbollah, Lebanon disavowed the raids, stating that the government of Lebanon did not condone them, and pointing out that Israel had a long history of disregarding UN resolutions.[65]

In interviews, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud criticized Israel's attacks and was supportive of Hezbollah, noting Hezbollah's role in ending Israel's previous occupation of southern Lebanon.[128][129] On 12 July 2006, PBS interviewed the Lebanese ambassador Farid Abboud to the United States and his Israeli counterpart. The interview discussed Hezbollah's connection to the Lebanese government.[130]

Israel never declared war on Lebanon,[131][132] and said it only attacked Lebanese governmental institutions which it suspected of being used by Hezbollah.[133] The Lebanese government played a role in shaping the conflict. On July 14, 2006, the Prime Minister's office issued a statement that called on US President George W. Bush to exert all his efforts on Israel to stop its attacks in Lebanon and reach a comprehensive ceasefire.[134] In a televised speech the next day, Siniora called for "an immediate ceasefire backed by the United Nations".[135] A US-French draft resolution that was influenced by the Lebanese Siniora Plan and which contained provisions for Israeli withdrawal, military actions, and mutual prisoner release was rejected by the US and Israel. Many Lebanese accused the US government of stalling the ceasefire resolution and of support of Israel's attacks. In a poll conducted two weeks into the conflict, only 8% of the respondents felt that the US would support Lebanon, while 87% supported Hezbollah's fight against Israel.[136] After the attack on Qana, Siniora snubbed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by cancelling a meeting with her and thanked Hezbollah for its "sacrifices for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon."[137] On 7 August 2006 the 7-point plan was extended to include the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese army troops to fill the void between an Israeli withdrawal and UNIFIL deployment.

Allegations, accusations and reports of war crimes

Under international humanitarian law, warring parties are obliged to distinguish between combatants and civilians, ensure that attacks on legitimate military targets are proportional, and guarantee that the military advantage of such attacks outweigh the possible harm done to civilians.[138] Violations of these laws are considered war crimes.

Various groups and individuals accused both Israel and Hezbollah of violations of these laws during the conflict, and warned of possible war crimes.[139] These allegations included intentional attacks on civilian populations or infrastructure, disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks, the use of human shields, and the use of prohibited weapons. No formal charges have been filed against either group.[140]

Amnesty International called on both Hezbollah and Israel to end attacks on civilians during the conflict,[141] and criticized attacks against civilian villages and infrastructure by Israel.[142] They also highlighted IDF use of white phosphorus shells in Lebanon.[143][144] Human Rights Watch accused both parties of failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants, violating the principle of distinction, and committing war crimes.[34][138][145] Peter Bouckaert, a senior emergencies researcher for Human Rights Watch, stated that Hezbollah was "directly targeting civilians... their aim is to kill Israeli civilians" and that Israel had not taken "the necessary precautions to distinguish between civilian and military targets."[146][147] They criticized Hezbollah's use of unguided Katyusha rockets, and Israel's use of unreliable cluster bombs – both too close to civilians areas – suggesting that they may have deliberately targeted civilians.[138][148] UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Israel's response violated international humanitarian law, and criticized Hezbollah for "cowardly blending... among women and children."[149]

Israel defended itself by stating that it tried to avoid civilians, and had distributed leaflets calling on civilian residents to evacuate,[150] but that Hezbollah stored weapons in and fired from civilian areas, making those areas legitimate targets,[151] and used civilians as human shields.[152][153][154][155] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found cases where Hezbollah did fire rockets from, and store weapons in, populated areas and deploy its forces among the civilian population; however, both say that is not conclusive evidence of the intent to use civilians as human shields.[151][156][157] HRW stated that "the IDF struck a large number of private homes of civilian Hezbollah members during the war, as well as various civilian Hezbollah-run institutions such as schools, welfare agencies, banks, shops and political offices."[158][159] Although Israel maintained that the civilian infrastructure was "hijacked" by Hezbollah and used for military purposes,[160] but Amnesty International identified the destruction of entire civilian neighbourhoods and villages by Israeli forces, attacks on bridges with no apparent strategic value, and attacks on infrastructure indispensable to the survival of the civilian population,[142] and questioned whether the "military advantage anticipated from destroying" civilian infrastructure had been "measured against the likely effect on civilians."[161] They also stated that the Israeli actions suggested a "policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population."[161]

Al-Jazeera reported at the time: "Foreign journalists based in Lebanon also reported that the Shia militia chose to fight from civilian areas and had on occasion prevented Lebanese civilians from fleeing conflict-hit areas of south Lebanon. Al-Manar, Hezbollah's satellite channel, also showed footage of Hezbollah firing rockets from civilian areas and produced animated graphics showing how Hezbollah fired rockets at Israeli cities from inside villages in southern Lebanon."[162]

Images obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun show that "Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia. The images... show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons. Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon."[163]

On 24 July 2007, Haaretz reported that the official Israeli inquiry into the war "is to include the examination of claims that the IDF committed war crimes during last summer's fighting."[164]

A 6 September 2007 Human Rights Watch report found that most of the civilian deaths in Lebanon resulted from "indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes", and found that Israeli aircraft targeted vehicles carrying fleeing civilians.[165] In a statement issued before the report's release, the human rights organization said there was no basis to the Israeli government's claim that civilian casualties resulted from Hezbollah guerrillas using civilians as shields. Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, said there were only "rare" cases of Hezbollah operating in civilian villages. "To the contrary, once the war started, most Hizbollah military officials and even many political officials left the villages" he said. "Most Hizbollah military activity was conducted from prepared positions outside Lebanese villages in the hills and valleys around."## Roth also noted that "Hezbollah fighters often didn’t carry their weapons in the open or regularly wear military uniforms, which made them a hard target to identify. But this doesn’t justify the IDF’s failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and if in doubt to treat a person as a civilian, as the laws of war require."[166]

On its final report, issued on 30 January 2008, the Israeli government's Winograd Commission concluded that the Israel Defense Forces did not commit violations or war crimes, as alleged by the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other NGOs. The evidence claims to show that the Israel Defense Forces did not target civilians, in contrast to Hezbollah and to the false allegations by NGOs, and terms like “war crimes” are without basis.[167] This report also found that, "Israel must consider whether it wants to continue using cluster bombs in the future, because its current manner of employing them does not conform to international law."[168]

Casualties

Lebanese civilians

The Lebanese civilian death toll is difficult to pinpoint as most published figures do not distinguish between civilians and Hezbollah combatants, including those released by the Lebanese government.[12] In addition, Hezbollah fighters can be difficult to identify as many do not wear military uniforms.[12] However, it has been widely reported that the majority of the Lebanese killed were civilians, and UNICEF estimated that 30% of Lebanese killed were children under the age of 13.[169]

The Lebanese top police office and the Lebanon Ministry of Health, citing hospitals, death certificates, local authorities, and eye witnesses, put the death toll at 1,123—37 soldiers and police officers, 894 identified victims, and 192 unidentified ones.[12] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council (HRC) put the Lebanese death toll at 1,191,[35] citing the health ministry and police, as well as other state agencies.[12] The Associated Press estimated the figure at 1,035.[12] In February 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 800 Lebanese had died during fighting,[170] and other articles have estimated the figure to be at least 850.[171][172] Encarta states that "estimates... varied from about 850 to 1,200" in its entry on Israel,[173] while giving a figure of "more than 1,200" in its entry on Lebanon.[174] The Lebanon Higher Relief Council estimated the number of Lebanese injured to be 4,409,[35] 15% of whom were permanently disabled.[175]

The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded Israeli cluster bombs.[12] Between the end of the war and November 2008, approximately 40 people were killed and over 270 injured by cluster bombs.[176]

Hezbollah

Hezbollah casualty figures are difficult to ascertain, with claims and estimates by different groups and individuals ranging from 184 to 1,000. However, Hezbollah is known to have sustained more fatalities than Israel during the conflict. Hezbollah's leadership claims that 250 of their fighters were killed in the conflict,[9] while Israel estimated that its forces had killed 600 Hezbollah fighters.[9][12] In addition, Israel claimed to have the names of 532 dead Hezbollah fighters.[177] A UN official estimated that 500 Hezbollah fighters had been killed,[11] and Lebanese government officials estimated that up to 500 had been killed.[10] A Stratfor report cited "sources in Lebanon" as estimating the Hezbollah death toll at "more than 700... with many more to go",[178] Meanwhile, British Military Historian John Keegan estimated that as many as 1,000 Hezbollah fighters were killed.[179] A burial count published in an October 2006 article in the Asia Times Online suggested a death toll of 184.[180] However, Israel also captured the corpses of 199 Hezbollah fighters. Following the prisoner swap deal in July 2008, Israel returned the remains of almost 200 militants.[181] Defense analyst Ben Moores estimated that Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) lost a combined total of 600 to 900 killed in action.[182]

Con Coughlin of the Daily Telegraph reported that the difficulty in ascertaining an accurate Hezbollah casualty count was due in large part to deliberate attempts by Hezbollah to conceal the true extent of its losses. Citing a “senior security official” he wrote, “Hizbollah(sic) is desperate to conceal its casualties because it wants to give the impression that it is winning its war. People might reach a different conclusion if they knew the true extent of Hizbollah’s(sic) casualties.” [183] Patrick Bishop of the Telegraph reported that Hezbollah’s “culture of secrecy has disguised the true number of its losses – funerals of ‘martyrs’ are being staggered to soften the impact of losses.” [184]

Other Lebanese militias

The Amal movement, a militia that fought alongside Hezbollah, suffered 17 dead. The Lebanese Communist Party, which chose to fight with Hezbollah, suffered 12 dead. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, a Palestinian militia that also fought alongside Hezbollah, lost two fighters.

Lebanese military casualties

Though rarely engaged in combat, 46 Lebanese soldiers were killed and 100 soldiers were wounded. One soldier was killed in combat during the Tyre raid, and the rest were killed or wounded in Israeli strikes.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps casualties

Some media outlets citing Lebanese sources reported that the bodies of as many as nine Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed in the fighting were transported to Syria for burial in Iran.[185][186] Aviation Week reported that papers recovered from the bodies of soldiers killed in Southern Lebanon on Aug. 9 identified them as members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.[187] Defense analyst Ben Moores stated that Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen were among the 600 to 900 anti-Israeli fighters killed during the conflict.[188]

Israel Defense Forces

Figures for the Israel Defense Forces troops killed, given by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, range from 117[20] to 119.[189] The latter figure contains two IDF fatalities that occurred after the ceasefire went into effect. Both these figures are incomplete as they do not contain two IDF fatalities from the Zar'it-Shtula incident that started the war, whose fates weren't confirmed until their bodies were exchanged for Lebanese prisoners in 2008. The total casualty toll for the IDF, including the dead from the Zar'it-Shtula incident, is 121 dead and 628 wounded.

Israeli civilians

Most Israeli civilians fled the region or took refuge in bomb shelters as Hezbollah fired rockets.[151] Hezbollah rockets killed 43 Israeli civilians during the conflict,[19] including four who died of heart attacks from rocket attacks.[189] Out of the 43 Israeli civilian fatalities, at least 18 of those killed were Israeli Arabs[190][191] In addition, 4,262 civilians were injured–33 seriously wounded, 68 moderately, 1,388 lightly, and 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety.[20] According to Human Rights Watch, "These bombs may have killed 'only' 43 civilians, but that says more about the availability of warning systems and bomb shelters throughout most of Northern Israel and the evacuation of more than 350,000 people than it does about Hezbollah's intentions."[192]

Environmental and archeological damage

Image from space showing Jiyyeh oil slick in darkest blue, picture centered on Beirut. The largest oil spill in the history of the Mediterranean, it was caused by an Israeli air strike on Jiyeh power station[193] August 10, 2006

On 13 July 2006, and again on 15 July 2006, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Jiyeh power station, 30 km (19 mi) south of Beirut, resulting in the largest ever oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea.[193] The plant's damaged storage tanks leaked an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes (more than 4 million gallons) of oil into the eastern Mediterranean.[193][194] A 10 km (6 mi) wide oil slick covered 170 km (105 statute miles) of coastline,[195][196] and threatened Turkey and Cyprus. The slick killed fish including the northern bluefin tuna, a species already nearing extinction in the Mediterranean, and threatened the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle.[197] It also potentially increased the risk of cancer in humans. An additional 25,000 tons of oil burned at the power station, creating a "toxic cloud" that rained oil downwind.[193] The Lebanese government estimated the time necessary for a complete recovery to be 10 years. The UN estimated the cost for the initial clean-up at $64 million.[36]

A forest fire in northern Israel caused by Hezbollah rockets in mid-July.[198]

Hezbollah rocket attacks caused numerous forest fires inside northern Israel, particularly on the Naftali mountain range near Kiryat Shmona..[198] As many as 16,500 acres (67 km²) of land, including forests and grazing fields, were destroyed by Hezbollah rockets.[199] The Jewish National Fund estimated that it would take 50 to 60 years to rehabilitate the forests.[200]

Israeli bombing also caused significant damage to the world heritage sites of Tyre and Byblos. In Tyre a Roman tomb was damaged and a fresco near the centre of the site collapsed. In Byblos, a medieval tower was damaged and Venetian period remains near the harbour were dramatically stained by the oil slick and were considered to be difficult to clean. Damage was also caused to remains at Bint Jbeil and Chamaa, and to the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek.[201][202][203][204]

International action and reaction

A Lebanese protest in Sydney

The conflict engendered worldwide concerns over infrastructure damage and the risks of escalation of the crisis, as well as mixed support and criticism of both Hezbollah and Israel.[citation needed] The governments of the United States,[205] United Kingdom, Germany,[206] Australia, and Canada asserted Israel's right to self-defense. The United States government further responded by authorizing Israel's request for expedited shipment of precision-guided bombs, but did not announce the decision publicly.[207] United States President George W. Bush said he thought the conflict was part of the "War on Terrorism".[208][209] On July 20, 2006, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to support Israel's "right to defend itself".[210]

Among neighboring Middle Eastern nations, Iran, Syria, and Yemen voiced strong support for Hezbollah, while the Arab League, Egypt, and Jordan issued statements criticizing Hezbollah's actions[211] and declaring support for Lebanon.[212] Saudi Arabia found Hezbollah entirely responsible.[213] Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed with the Saudi stance that Hezbollah's actions were "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."[212]

Many worldwide protests and demonstrations appealed for an immediate ceasefire on both sides and expressed concern for the heavy loss of civilian life on all sides. Other demonstrations were held exclusively in favor of Lebanon or Israel. Numerous newspaper advertising campaigns, SMS and email appeals, and online petitions also occurred.[214][215]

Various foreign governments assisted the evacuation of their citizens from Lebanon.[216]

Ceasefire

Terms for a ceasefire had been drawn and revised several times over the course of the conflict, yet successful agreement between the two sides took several weeks. Hezbollah maintained the desire for an unconditional ceasefire,[217] while Israel insisted upon a conditional ceasefire, including the return of the two seized soldiers.[218] Lebanon frequently pled for the United Nations Security Council to call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. John Bolton confirmed that the US and UK, with support from several Arab leaders, delayed the ceasefire process. Outsider efforts to interfere with a ceasefire only ended when it became apparent Hezbollah would not be easily defeated.[219]

On 11 August 2006 the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution 1701, in an effort to end the hostilities. It was accepted by the Lebanese government and Hezbollah on 12 August 2006, and by the Israeli government on 13 August 2006. The ceasefire took effect at 8:00 AM (5:00 AM GMT) on 14 August 2006.[220]

Before the ceasefire, the two Hezbollah members of cabinet said that their militia would not disarm south of the Litani River, according to another senior member of the Lebanese cabinet,[221] while a top Hezbollah official similarly denied any intention of disarming in the south. Israel said it would stop withdrawing from Southern Lebanon if Lebanese troops were not deployed there within a matter of days.[222]

Reviews of the conflict

Following the UN-brokered ceasefire, there were mixed responses on who had gained or lost the most in the war. Iran and Syria proclaimed a victory for Hezbollah[223] while the Israeli and United States administrations declared that Hezbollah lost the conflict.

Reactions in Lebanon

A sign erected after the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war in South Lebanon which displays rockets and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

In the war's immediate aftermath, the image of Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah were greatly enhanced in the Arab world, due to the image of stubborn resistance by Hezbollah against advancing Israeli forces. The New York Times reported that Nasrallah "has seen his own aura and that of his organization enhanced immeasurably by battling the Israeli Army for nearly four weeks."[224] In addition, after the war Hezbollah funded (with monies supplied by Iran) much of the rebuilding of Lebanon, further enhancing its stature.[225]

On 27 August, Nasrallah stated, "Had we known that the capture of the soldiers would have led to [the war], we would definitely not have done it." This was the day before UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to Lebanon.[226] On 22 September, some eight hundred thousand Hezbollah supporters gathered in Beirut for a rally at which Nasrallah that Hezbollah had achieved a "divine and strategic victory."[227][228][229]

In April, 2007, according to a poll in Lebanon, 22% of Shias, 26% of Sunnis, and nearly half of Maronites expressed the desire to work abroad or emigrate. Nearly a third of Maronites had already submitted visa applications to foreign embassies, and another 60,000 Christians had already left.[230]

Reactions in Israel

Within hours of Israeli's bombing of Lebanon on 13 July 2006, hundreds of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv to oppose the war.[231]. On 22 July, about 2,000 people, including many Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, demanded an end to the offensive during a protest march in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.[232]. On August 5, some Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv, including former Knesset members of the Meretz party, Mossi Raz, Naomi Hazan and Yael Dayan.

Initially, in a poll by an Israeli radio station, Israelis were split on the outcome with the majority believing that no one won.[233] By 25 August, 63% of Israelis polled wanted Olmert to resign due to his handling of the war.[234]

Olmert admitted to the Knesset that there were mistakes in the war in Lebanon,[235] though he framed UN Security Council resolution 1701 as an accomplishment for Israel that would bring home the captured soldiers, and said that the operations had altered the regional strategic balance vis-à-vis Hezbollah.[236] The Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz admitted to failings in the conflict.[237] On 15 August, Israeli government and defense officials called for Halutz' resignation following a stock scandal in which he admitted selling stocks hours before the start of the Israeli offensive.[238] Halutz subsequently resigned on 17 January 2007.

On 21 August, a group of demobilized Israel reserve soldiers and parents of soldiers killed in the fighting started a movement calling for the resignation of Olmert and the establishment of a state commission of inquiry. They set up a protest tent opposite the Knesset and grew to over 2,000 supporters by 25 August,[239] including the influential Movement for Quality Government.[239][240] On 28 August, Olmert announced that there would be no independent state or governmental commission of inquiry, but two internal inspection probes, one to investigate the political echelon and one to examine the IDF, and likely a third commission to examine the Home Front, to be announced at a later date. These would have a more limited mandate and less authority than a single inquiry commission headed by a retired judge.[241] The political and military committees were to be headed by former director of Mossad Nahum Admoni and former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, respectively. Critics argued that these committees amount to a whitewash, due to their limited authority, limited investigatory scope, their self-appointed basis, and that neither would be headed by a retired judge.[242]

Due to these pressures, on 11 October, Admoni was replaced by retired justice Eliyahu Winograd as chair of the political probe, and the probe itself was elevated to the status of governmental commission with near-state commission mandate: the Winograd Commission. On 12 September, former defense minister Moshe Arens spoke of "the defeat of Israel" in calling for a state committee of inquiry. He said that Israel had lost "to a very small group of people, 5000 Hezbollah fighters, which should have been no match at all for the IDF", and stated that the conflict could have "some very fateful consequences for the future."[243] Disclosing his intent to shortly resign, Ilan Harari, the IDF's chief education officer, stated at a conference of senior IDF officers that Israel lost the war, becoming the first senior active duty officer to publicly state such an opinion.[244] IDF Major General Yiftah Ron Tal, on 4 October 2006 became the second and highest ranking serving officer to express his opinion that the IDF failed "to win the day in the battle against Hezbollah" as well as calling for Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz' resignation.[245] Ron-Tal was subsequently fired for making those and other critical comments.[246]

However, Eyal Zisser, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, took a contrary position and expressed the view that the war was in fact a strategic success for Israel and a Hezbollah defeat. He noted that Hezbollah had "lost about a third of its elite fighting force" and that "despite mistakes made by the IDF in conducting the military campaign, Israeli soldiers triumphed in every face-to-face battle with Hezbollah." He concluded that "as time passes, the severity of the blow suffered by Lebanon and its people from the 2006 war becomes clear."[247]

Zisser's view was shared by Dutch-Israeli military historian and author Martin van Creveld who argued that Hezbollah “had the fight knocked out of it,” lost hundreds of its members and that the organization was “thrown out of South Lebanon,” replaced by “a fairy robust United Nations peacekeeping force.” He also stressed that as a result of the war, Israel is experiencing a level of calm on the Lebanon border not seen in over four decades.[248]

In 2008, Ehud Barak, the replacement defense minister for Peretz, stated that the conflict failed to disarm Hezbollah, and that the group is increasingly entrenched in South Lebanon, further stating that "Hezbollah is stronger than ever and has more rockets than at the outbreak of the Lebanon war in the summer of 2006"[249] but he later noted that "[Israeli] deterrence still exists."[250] The IDF's Northern Command cited this deterrence as one reason Hezbollah did not fire any rockets into Israel during Operation Cast Lead.[251]

In March 2007, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies decided that the conflict would be defined as a war, following pressure from bereaved families.[252] Two days later, the Committee decided to name the war the "Second Lebanon War", a decision that was subsequently approved by the Israeli cabinet.[253]

Winograd Commission Report

According to the Winograd Commission Report, the Second Lebanon War was regarded as a "missed opportunity" and that "Israel initiated a long war, which ended without a defined military victory". The report continued to state that "a semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air superiority and size and technology advantages". Furthermore, Hezbollah's rocket attacks continued throughout the war and the IDF did not provide an effective response to it. Following a long period of using standoff fire power and limited ground activities, the IDF launched a large scale ground offensive close to the UN Security Council's resolution which imposed a cease-fire. "This offensive did not result in military gains and was not completed".

Later in the Report, the Commission stated that "[a] decision [was] made in the night of July 12th to react (to the kidnapping) with immediate and substantive military action and to set... ambitious goals." This decision had immediate repercussions in that subsequent decisions were limited mainly to a choice between a) "a short, painful and unexpected blow on Hezbollah" and b) "to bring about a significant change of the reality in the South of Lebanon with a large ground operation,[occupying]...the South of Lebanon and 'cleaning' it of Hezbollah". "The fact Israel went to war before it decided which option to select and without an exit strategy, all these constituted serious failures of the decision making process."

As for achievements, the Commission reported that "SC resolution 1701, and the fact that it was adopted unanimously, were an achievement for Israel."[254]

Reactions in the rest of the world

George W. Bush declared that Hezbollah lost the war and that "There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon"[255]

In the aftermath of the conflict US President George Bush said that Hezbollah was responsible for starting the war and that the group suffered a defeat at the hands of Israel.[256] President Bush also accused Iran and Syria of sponsoring Hezbollah:

Responsibility for the suffering of the Lebanese people also lies with Hezbollah's state sponsors, Iran and Syria. The regime in Iran provides Hezbollah with financial support, weapons, and training. Iran has made clear that it seeks the destruction of Israel. We can only imagine how much more dangerous this conflict would be if Iran had the nuclear weapon it seeks.

Syria is another state sponsor of Hezbollah. Syria allows Iranian weapons to pass through its territory into Lebanon. Syria permits Hezbollah's leaders to operate out of Damascus and gives political support to Hezbollah's cause. Syria supports Hezbollah because it wants to undermine Lebanon's democratic government and regain its position of dominance in the country.[256]

Bush further dismissed claims of victory by Hezbollah leaders, stating: "how can you claim victory when at one time you were a state within a state, safe within southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced by a Lebanese army and an international force?"[256]

In a speech given on August 15, 2006, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed that the Arab resistance against Israel would continue to grow stronger, saying, "Your weapons, warplanes, rockets and even your atomic bomb will not protect you in the future."[257]

The Economist magazine concluded that by surviving this asymmetrical military conflict with Israel, Hezbollah effectively emerged with a military and political victory from this conflict. They cite the facts that Hezbollah was able to sustain defenses on Lebanese soil and inflict unmitigated rocket attacks on Israeli civilians in the face of a punishing air and land campaign by the IDF.[258]

Matt M. Matthews, a military historian at the Combat Studies Institute of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College praised Hezbollah paramilitaries and reflected on what he described as "the lackluster performance of the IDF." He attributed this to several factors including (Lieutenant-General and Chief of the IDF General Staff) Halutz’s steadfast confidence in air power coupled with continuing COIN operations against the Palestinians at the expense of training for major combat operations.[259]

The US Congressional Research Service found that although Hezbollah’s military capabilities may have been substantially reduced, its long-term potential as a guerrilla movement appeared to remain intact: "Observers note that Hezbollah’s leaders have been able to claim a level of 'victory' simply by virtue of not having decisively 'lost'."[260]

British military historian John Keegan concluded that the outcome of the war was "misreported as an Israeli defeat" due to anti-Israel bias in the international media.[179]

Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and political commentator, citing an interview by which Nasrallah admitted that he would not have kidnapped the soldiers had he known that it would lead to war, wrote, "Nasrallah's admission, vastly underplayed in the West, makes clear what Lebanese already knew. Hezbollah may have won the propaganda war, but on the ground it lost. Badly."[261]

Michael Young, opinion page editor at the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, stated that Hezbollah turned "the stench of defeat into the smell of victory," through clever use of its propaganda machine. He suggested that Hezbollah had "hoodwinked" pundits who believed that Hezbollah was victorious, and opined that "one dreads to imagine what Hezbollah would recognize as a military loss."[262]

American military strategist and historian Edward Luttwak drew comparisons with the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where what initially looked like an Israeli setback later turned out to be an IDF victory and an Arab defeat.[263]

Cambridge professor and Peterhouse Fellow Brendan Simms summed up the war this way; "Hezbollah have suffered a setback (but are too clever to admit it) and the Israelis have scored a long-term success (but are too narrow-minded to realize it)."[264]

IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror highlighted the number of Hezbollah militants killed, the quick military response to Hezbollah's long-range rocket attacks, the post-war presence of the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL in southern Lebanon, and Iran's loss of Hezbollah as a deterrent against an Israeli first strike following the war.[265] Thomas Friedman concurred, stating that the war was a "huge strategic loss for Hezbollah", and contrasted the billions in damage suffered by Hezbollah and Lebanon with the "relatively minor damage" suffered by Israel, which enjoyed a "growth spurt".[266]

Financial repercussions

The fighting resulted in a huge financial setback for Lebanon, with an official estimate of a fall in growth from +6% to -5% and US$5 Billion (22% of GDP)[267] in direct and indirect costs, while the cost for Israel was estimated at US$3.5 billion.[268] Indirect costs to Israel include a cut in growth by 0.9%.[269] and the cost to tourism was estimated at 0.4% of Israel's GDP in the following year.[270] According to one analyst in the Associated Press, the main casualty was the fragile unity between Lebanon's sectarian and political groups,[271] though an Asia Times piece points to Free Patriotic Movement head Michel Aoun's support for Hezbollah and provision of housing for Shi'a refugees as evidence for strengthened relations.

Media controversy

A 2007 report entitled "War to the Last Moment": The Israeli Media in the Second Lebanon War by the Israeli media monitoring NGO Keshev(trans. "Awareness") [272] found that the Israeli media "except for a few exceptional instances...covered the war in an almost entirely mobilized manner" serving more to support the goals of the Israeli government and IDF than to objectively report the news. "The media created a general atmosphere of complete and absolute support and justification of the war, and systematically suppressed questions that arose as early as the first day of fighting...The critiscm gradually increased toward the end of the war-as it became clearer that the IDF was not managing to win. But the general spirit of the war coverage, in the broad strategic sense, as utterly uncritical." Keshev's report documents a post-war memo from the Deputy CEO of Marketing for the Hebrew newspaper Maariv to Maariv employees which states, in part, that

Even when we had problematic material related to the management of the war...we restrained ourselves. In a certain sense, we betrayed our role as journalists, but we did so because we took national, patriotic considerations into account and decided that in the event of war, and certainly a war which was not progressing as it should and was going awry, we were part of the Country; that it was permissible, and even required of us, to postpone disputes and criticism; and that we did not have to apologize, or to feel abashed, for our support and backing of the Army and the Government.[273]

In the beginning of the war, according to the report, "significant coverage of the decision-making process was almost entirely absent in Israel's media".[273] The media also marginalized reports on Israelis living in the North who did not receive proper governmental support and harped on the question of the loyalties of Arab-Israelis in the North instead of focusing on inadequate provision of services by the state.[273]

While the Israeli media reported on Lebanese suffering, it divorced this suffering from the IDF operations which caused it.[273] With regard to diplomacy, the media buried the stories on negotiations to reflect the derision held by decision-makers toward a diplomatic solution.[273]

Several media commentators and journalists have alleged an intentionally distorted coverage of the events, in favour of Hezbollah, by means of photo manipulation, staging by Hezbollah or by journalists, and false or misleading captioning.[274]

On 18 July 2006 Hezbollah Press Officer Hussein Nabulsi took CNN's Nic Robertson on an exclusive tour of southern Beirut. Robertson noted that despite his minder's anxiety about explosions in the area, it was clear that Hezbollah had sophisticated media relations and were in control of the situation. Hezbollah designated the places that they went to, and the journalists "certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath." According to his reports, there was no doubt that the bombs were hitting Hezbollah facilities, and while there appeared to be "a lot of civilian damage, a lot of civilian properties," he reiterated that he couldn't verify the civilian nature of the destroyed buildings.[275]

CNN's Charlie Moore described a Hezbollah press tour of a bombed-out area in southern Beirut on 23 July 2006 as a "dog-and-pony show" due to perceived staging, misrepresentation of the nature of the destroyed areas, and strict directives about when and with whom interviews could take place.[276]

In the same interview aired on 23 July 2006, CNN's John Roberts, who was reporting from an Israeli artillery battery on the Lebanese border, stated that he had to take everything he was told — either by the IDF or Hezbollah — "with a grain of salt," citing mutual recriminations of civilian targeting which he was unable to verify independently.[275]

Reuters withdrew over 900 photographs by Adnan Hajj, a Lebanese freelance photographer, after he admitted to digitally adding and darkening smoke spirals in photographs of an attack on Beirut.[277]

Photographs submitted to Reuters and Associated Press showed one Lebanese woman mourning on two different pictures taken by two photographers, allegedly taken two weeks apart.[278] It is "common practice to send more than one photographer to an incident".[279]

Post-ceasefire events

In the days following the 14 August 2006 ceasefire, Hezbollah launched dozens of rockets and mortars inside southern Lebanon, which Israel did not respond to, though there were several instances where Israeli troops killed armed Hezbollah members approaching their positions.[280][281][282] Israeli warplanes continued conducting numerous flyovers and maneuvers above southern Lebanon, which Israel said did not violate the ceasefire.[283][284] On 19 August 2006, Israel launched a raid in Lebanon's eastern Beqaa Valley it says was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah's weapons supply from Syria and Iran.[285] Lebanese officials "said the Israelis were apparently seeking a guerrilla target in a school."[286][287][288][289][290] Israel's aerial and commando operations were criticised by Kofi Annan as violations of the ceasefire, which he said they had conducted the majority of, and he also protested the continued embargo. France, then leading UNIFIL, also issued criticism of the flyovers, which it interpreted as aggressive.[291] Israel argued that “[t]he cease-fire is based on (U.N. resolution) 1701 which calls for an international arms embargo against Hezbollah,” and said the embargo could be lifted after full implementation of the cease-fire[285] but Annan said that UNIFIL would only interdict arms at Lebanon's request.[292][293] On 7 September 2006 and 8 September 2006 respectively, aviation and naval blockades were lifted.[294] In the second half of September Hezbollah claimed victory and asserted an improvement in their position, and they redeployed to some positions on the border[295][296] as Israel completed its withdrawal from Lebanon save border-straddling Ghajar.[297][298][299][300][301][302]

On 3rd of October, an Israeli fighter penetrated the 2-nautical-mile (4 km) defence perimeter of the French frigate Courbet without answering radio calls, triggering a diplomatic incident.[303]

On 24 October, six Israeli F-16s flew over a German Navy vessel patrolling off Israel's coast just south of the Lebanese border. The German Defence Ministry said that the planes had given off infrared decoys and one of the aircraft had fired two shots into the air, which had not been specifically aimed. The Israeli military said that a German helicopter took off from the vessel without having coordinated this with Israel, and denied vehemently having fired any shots at the vessel and said "as of now" it also had no knowledge of the jets launching flares over it. Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz telephoned his German counterpart Franz Josef Jung to clarify that 'Israel has no intention to carry out any aggressive actions' against the German peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, who are there as part of UNIFIL to enforce an arms embargo against Hezbollah. Germany confirmed the consultations, and that both sides were interested in maintaining good cooperation.[304][305][306]

On 1 December 2006, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted a report to the Security Council president maintaining "there were no serious incidents or confrontations" since the cease-fire in August 2006. He did, however, note that peacekeepers reported air violations by Israel "almost on a daily basis," which Israel maintained were a security measure related to continuing Syrian and Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah, and evidence of the presence of unauthorized armed personnel, assets, and weapons in Lebanon.[307] In one case, a UNIFIL demining team was challenged by two Hezbollah members in combat uniforms armed with AK-47 rifles; UNIFIL notified the Lebanese army, who arrested three suspects the next day.[307] There were also "13 instances where UNIFIL came across unauthorized arms or related material in its area of operation", including the discovery of 17 katyusha rockets and several improvised explosive devices in Rachaiya El-Foukhar, and the discovery of a weapons cache containing seven missiles, three rocket launchers, and a substantial amount of ammunition in the area of Bourhoz.[307][308] Annan also reported that as of 20 November 2006, 822 Israeli cluster bomb strike sites had been recorded,[308] with 60,000 cluster bomblets having been cleared by the UN Mine Action Coordination Center.[309]

The months after the hostilities saw major upheaval in the Israeli military and political echelon, with the spate of high-ranking resignations including Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz,[310] and calls for resignations of many cabinet-members including Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert following publication of the Winograd Commission's findings.[311] The Winograd report severely criticized Olmert, accusing him of a "severe failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution." Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora criticized the Winograd report for failing to report on the full destruction dealt to Lebanon by the brief July War of 2006.[312]

On June 30, 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's fourth report on the implementation of SC Resolution 1701 fingered Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah for violating the ceasefire, but called the firing of rockets into Israel by unknown elements "the most serious breach of the cessation of hostilities since the end of the war." The report commended Israel on its restraint following this attack, and commended Lebanon for its continued efforts to disarm armed groups. It further stated that in spite of "flexibility by Israel beyond the framework of UNSC-Resolution 1701, implementation of the resolution's humanitarian aspects has not yet been possible."[313]

On February 12, 2008, Imad Mugniyah, the head of Hezbollah’s military wing, was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus.[314] Israel considered Mugniyah a "significant force behind actions against Israel".[315]

On July 14, 2009, an explosion in Khirbat Silim, a Lebanese village near the Lebanon-Israel border, killed eight Hezbollah militants. Israel and the United Nations stated that the explosion was a hidden Hezbollah weapons cache, and condemned Hezbollah for violating Resolution 1701. The Lebanese government stated that the explosion was caused by IDF munitions left following the 2006 war.[316][317] Hezbollah blamed the explosion on leftover shells that had been collected following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.[318] A Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Seyassah, reported that the ammunition warehouse stored chemical weapons.[319]

On August 23, 2009, the IDF published a video it said showed villagers from Marwakhin, a village in Southern Lebanon, "forcefully resisting" efforts by Hezbollah militants to store weapons in their village.[320]

On November 4, 2009 Israeli navy commandos of Shayetet 13 boarded the ship MV Francop in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and seized 500 tons of Iranian armaments disguised as civilian cargo. Israel said the weapons were bound for Hezbollah and originated from Iran.[321] Hezbollah disavowed any connection to the contraband and accused Israel of “piracy.”[322]

Prisoner swap

On Wednesday July 16, 2008, in accordance with the mandates of Resolution 1701, Hezbollah transferred the coffins of captured Israeli soldiers,[323] Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in exchange for incarcerated Palestine Liberation Front militant Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah militants captured by Israel during the war, and bodies of about 200 other Lebanese and Palestinian militants held by Israel.[324] Until that time, Hezbollah had refused to provide information on Goldwasser and Regev.

See also

References

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  2. ^ Herbert Docena (2006-08-17). "Amid the bombs, unity is forged". Asia Times Online. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HH17Ak02.html. "The LCP...has itself been very close to Hezbollah and fought alongside it in the frontlines in the south. According to Hadadeh, at least 12 LCP members and supporters died in the fighting." 
  3. ^ Associated Press (2006-08-06). "PFLP claims losses in IDF strike on Lebanon base". The Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1154525814854&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. 
  4. ^ "Two Northern Command chiefs?", Ynetnews, 8 August 2006; See also, "IDF officials: Maj. Gen. Adam must quit post after war"; "Israel swaps commanders"; "Impatient Israel appoints new battle chief"; "New Israeli General Oversees Lebanon "; "Israel names new commander to head offensive" Agence France-Presse, Retrieved 14 December 2009; "Israel changes command structure"
  5. ^ USATODAY.com - Israel captures guerrillas in Hezbollah hospital raid
  6. ^ "Some 30,000 Israeli troops in Lebanon — army radio". Reuters via Yahoo! News Asia. 2006-08-13. http://asia.news.yahoo.com/060813/3/2of6v.html. 
  7. ^ 2006/strength-of-israel-lebanon-and-hezbollah/ International Institute for Strategic Studies
  8. ^ Winograd Commission Report, page 353. Based on Northern Command medical census of November 9, 2006.
  9. ^ a b c Associated Press (February 21, 2007). "Army chief says Israel may have to confront Hezbollah attempts to re-arm". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/21/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-Hezbollah.php. 
  10. ^ a b Con Coughlin (August 4, 2006). "Teheran fund pays war compensation to Hizbollah families". Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/08/04/wmid404.xml. Retrieved 2007-03-02. 
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  300. ^ Israel violates Lebanese airspace, launches mock raids
  301. ^ Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace again
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  303. ^ (French) L'armée française au Liban se sent menacée par Israël, Le Figaro
  304. ^ "Germany, Israel confirm naval vessel-planes incident". Telugu Portal. October 2006. http://www.teluguportal.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=18958. 
  305. ^ "Germany, Israel confirm naval vessel-planes incident". Middle East News. October 2006. http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/article_1214671.php/Germany_Israel_confirm_naval_vessel-planes_incident. 
  306. ^ "Israel denies firing shots at German ship". Ynetnews. October 2006. http://story.malaysiasun.com/index.php/ct/9/cid/b8de8e630faf3631/id/ba4623e8cf1e387d/. 
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  313. ^ Report of the secretary general on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, The Daily Star. June 30, 2007.
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  315. ^ Greenberg, Military Intelligence: Hizbullah lost its number one figure, ynetnews.com, 2/13/08
  316. ^ Benhorin, UN official: Arms Cache that exploded in Lebanon was Hezbollah’s, ynetnews.com, 7/23/09
  317. ^ http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1248277901293&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
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  320. ^ Lebanese villagers recorded driving away Hezbollah men, Ynetnews.com, 8/25/09
  321. ^ Iran and Hizballah: Significance of the Francop Interception
  322. ^ Hezbollah denies link to arms ship
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  324. ^ "Coffins said to hold bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev taken to Israel-Lebanon border". Haaretz. 2008-07-16. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1002425.html. 

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