2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict

The conflict began on 12 July 2006, two weeks after the start of the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict, and six weeks after the previous ceasefire. A ceasefire came into effect at 05:00 UTC, 14 August 2006.

The conflict began with shelling of Israeli civilian targets in Northern Israel and a cross-border Hezbollah raid which resulted in the capture of two and killing of three Israeli soldiers. Israel held the Lebanese government responsible for the attack, as it was carried out from Lebanese territory.

Israel then initiated an air and naval blockade of Lebanon, which is still in effect, massive airstrikes across much of the country, and ground incursions into southern Lebanon. Hezbollah continuously launched rocket attacks into northern Israel and engaged the Israeli Army on the ground with hit-and-run guerrilla attacks.

The conflict has killed many hundreds, mostly Lebanese people (with a yet unknown proportion of fighters and civilians), damaged infrastructure across Lebanon, displaced more than a million Lebanese, and disrupted normal life across much of Lebanon. Hezbollah’s rockets have killed about 40 Israeli civilians and caused the displacement or withdrawal to bombshelters of more than 500,000 civilians. Attacks by both sides on civilian population centers and infrastructure have drawn sharp criticism internationally.

On 11 August, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution 1701, in an effort to end the hostilities. On 12 August, the Lebanese government and Hezbollah approved the resolution, and on 13 August the Israeli government did the same, though Hezbollah cabinet members have stated they would not disarm south of the Litani river.

At 9:05 AM local time (06:05 UTC), on 12 July, 2006, Hezbollah initiated a diversionary Katyusha rocket and mortar attack on Israeli military positions and on the villages of Even Menahem and Mattat. At the same time, a ground contingent of Hezbollah attacked two Israeli armored Humvees along the Israel-Lebanon border, near the village of Zar'it, capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three. Five others were killed later on the Lebanese side of the border during a mission to rescue the two abducted soldiers. In a report the Lebanese police force stated that the Israeli soldiers were attacked and "captured" on the Lebanese side of the border on 12 July during a mission to infiltrate the Lebanese town of Ayta ash-Shab. However, the UN, EU, G8, and prominent news agencies have characterized the Hezbollah action as “cross-border”. In an interview with The Times on 2 August, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “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.”

Hezbollah's attack was named Operation Truthful Promise, after a "promise" by its leader Hassan Nasrallah to capture Israeli soldiers and swap them for some of the four Lebanese prisoners in Israel, including convicted murderer Samir Kuntar. Later on, Hassan 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.”

Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert declared the attack by Hezbollah’s military wing an “act of war,” and promised Lebanon a “very painful and far-reaching response.” CNN reported that “The Israeli Cabinet authorized ‘severe and harsh’ retaliation on Lebanon.” Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, told Israel's Channel 10 that “if the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.” Retired Israeli army colonel Gal Luft explained the rationale behind the attack: “Israel is attempting to create a rift between the Lebanese population and Hezbollah supporters by exacting a heavy price from the elite in Beirut. The message is: If you want your air conditioning to work and if you want to be able to fly to Paris for shopping, you must pull your head out of the sand and take action toward shutting down Hezbollah-land.”

Prime Minister Olmert and other officials declared that Israel held the Beirut government responsible for the attack, as it was carried out from Lebanese territory. In response, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora denied any knowledge of the raid and stated that he did not condone it. An emergency meeting of the Lebanese government reaffirmed this position.

Early on 13 July 2006 Israel sent IAF jets to bomb Lebanon's international airport near Beirut, forcing that its closure and diverting its arriving flights to Cyprus. Israel subsequently imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon, and has bombed the main Beirut–Damascus highway.

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.

On 25 July IDF forces attacked Bint Jbeil, an important Hezbollah stronghold opposite the Israeli border. On 27 July, Hezbollah ambushed the Israelis and killed 8 soldiers, though Israel says it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.

On 1 August Israeli commandos landed in Baalbeck, capturing five people in Operation Sharp and Smooth. Troops had landed near Dar al-Himkeh hospital west of Baalbeck as part of a 'widescale operation' in the area.

As of 3 August 2006, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, the Israeli Air Force had carried out almost 7,000 bombing sorties across Lebanon, hitting 3,300 targets. There has been a focus on targeting transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges. According to the IDF official website, missions attacking Lebanese infrastructure were essential for weakening Hezbollah's rocket-launching capability. A few days later, the IDF destroyed the last bridge across the Litani river.

On 12 August, less than half day after United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 approved, the IDF established its hold in Lebanon, within framework of broadened military operations. Over the weekend the IDF nearly tripled its forces in southern Lebanon in relation to the forces in the field on 10 August. IDF troops were ordered to advance towards the Litani River.

On 14 August, moments before the ceasefire went into effect, the Israeli Air Force reported that they had killed the head of Hezbollah’s Special Forces, identified as Sajed Dewayer. Hezbollah has denied this claim.

According to Haaretz newspaper, “the IDF is not fighting a small guerrilla organization. It is dealing with a trained, skilled, well-organized, highly motivated infantry that is equipped with the cream of the crop of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia and China, and which is very familiar with the territory on which it is fighting. In such a showdown, even when you have tanks and fighter planes, the going is very slow, and, sadly, you must also pay a heavy price in terms of casualties.”

Hezbollah has fired rockets indiscriminately, mostly hitting civilian targets throughout the conflict, landing in all major cities of northern Israel including Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, 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. It also hit a hospital in Safed in northern Galilee on 18 July, wounding 8.

On 14 July, following Israeli bombing raids on Lebanon that killed 60 civilians, Nasrallah addressed Israel, saying “You wanted an open war, and we are heading for an open war. We are ready for it.”

After the initial Israeli response, Hezbollah declared an all-out military alert, and said it had 13,000 rockets capable of hitting towns and installations far into northern Israel. As a result, Defense Minister Peretz told commanders to prepare civil defense plans and many of the nearly 1,000,000 civilians living in Northern Israel were sent to bomb shelters or fled their homes to other parts of the country. Hezbollah continued to fire hundreds of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel's towns and cities, including Nahariya, Safed, Hatzor HaGlilit, Rosh Pina, Kiryat Shmona, and Karmiel, and numerous small agricultural villages.

Hezbollah attacks hit as far south as Hadera in central Israel, as well as Israel's third largest city, Haifa, and the Jezreel Valley cities of Nazareth and Afula. Al-Manar reported that the Hezbollah attack included a Fajr-3 and a Ra'ad 1, both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran. One of the attacks hit a railroad repair depot, killing eight workers. Hezbollah claimed that this attack was aimed at a large Israeli fuel storage plant adjacent to the railway facility; the plant has not been hit to date. Haifa is home to many strategically valuable facilities such as shipyards and oil refineries.

On 3 August, the same day eight Israeli civilians killed by rocket attacks, Nasrallah warned Israel: “if you hit our capital we will hit your capital Tel Aviv”. Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital. IBA military correspondent cited a “most senior IDF source” who stated in response that “if Tel Aviv is attacked, the national infrastructure of Lebanon will be destroyed.” In his 3 August speech, Nasrallah stated for the first time, however, that if Israel ceased aerial and artillery strikes of Lebanese towns and villages, Hezbollah would stop its rocket campaign. On 4 August Israel attacked the southern outskirts of Beirut, and later in the day, Hezbollah launched rockets at the Hadera region.

On 7 August the Israeli Air Force shot down an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Lebanese territory, apparently launched by Hezbollah. According to IAF, the same type of UAV had twice before during the past two years been sent towards Israel, probably as a publicity stunt to showcase Hezbollah's capabilities. After the shoot-down it was recovered by the Israeli Navy.

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 Hizbollah apparently shot down an Israeli helicopter, a first for the militia.

Hezbollah also engaged in ground combat with the IDF, especially guerilla-type hit-and-run tactics. These attacks by small, well-armed units created additional casualties for the IDF, but didn't pose a threat of military defeat.

Israeli strikes on Lebanon's civilian population and infrastructure included Beirut airport, residential buildings, ambulances, fleeing civilians, ports, a lighthouse, grain silos, bridges, roads, factories, medical and relief trucks, mobile telephone and television stations, fuel containers and service stations, and the country's largest dairy farm Liban Lait.

Israeli officials accused Hezbollah of intentionally using the civilian population as human shields. They also defended the bombing raids, explaining that the IAF drops leaflets warning civilians to leave the area before it attacks. Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon stated on 26 July stated that any civilians remaining in South Lebanon after being issued such leaflets should be considered “terrorists”.

Hezbollah fired rockets, sometimes more than 200 per day, mostly at civilian targets throughout the conflict. These landed in all major cities of northern Israel including Haifa, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Afula, Qiryat Shemona, Karmiel, and Maalot, and dozens of kibbutzim, moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended their rocket attacks, saying “In the beginning, we started to act calmly, we focused on Israeli military bases and we didn’t attack any settlement, However, since the first day, the enemy attacked Lebanese towns and murdered civilians—Hezbollah militants had destroyed military bases, while the Israelis killed civilians and targeted Lebanon's infrastructure”.

Jan Egeland, United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, while calling Hezbollah rocket attacks into northern Israel and Israeli aerial bombing of Beirut violations of humanitarian law, he accused Hezbollah of “cowardly blending…among women and children” and condemned their pride at "having many more children and women dead than armed men."

Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed “grave concern over the continued killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.” She suggested that the actions of Israel and Hezbollah may constitute war crimes. Arbour called for Israel to obey a “principle of proportionality” and said, “indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians.…Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable”.

Amnesty International condemned both sides for attacks on civilians and the reported used of white phosphorus by the IDF.

Human Rights Watch issued many reports documenting indiscriminate use of force against civilians by both Israel and Hezbollah. They blamed Israel for systematically failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, which may constitute a war crime, and have accused Hezbollah of committing war crimes by the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians by firing rockets into populated areas. The organization has also strongly criticized Israel for using cluster bombs too close to civilians because of their inaccuracy and unreliability, and Hezbollah for filling its rockets with ball bearings, which suggests a desire to maximize harm to civilians.

An environmental disaster resulted from the Israeli Airforce bombing the Jiyeh power station, 30 km (19 mi) south of Beirut, on 13 July and 15 July. The plant's damaged storage tanks leaked 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of oil into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, nearly half the amount of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. A 10km wide oil slick covers 80 km of Lebanon's and 20 km of Syria's coastline, moving north towards Turkey and Cyprus. The slick is reportedly causing breathing problems, killing fish, and threatening the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle.

Amnesty International has also called on Israel to consider refraining from the use of weapons with depleted uranium munitions, due to health risks. The effect of the radioactive dust created on impact is debated, though the weapon itself is considered "toxic and constitutes a health risk independent of any residual radioactivity" due to the nature of heavy metals.

Hezbollah rocket attacks caused numerous and fierce forest fires inside northern Israel, particularly on the Naftali mountain range near Kiryat Shmona. As of 8 August as many as 9,000 acres including 3,000 acres of Israel’s few forests, were damaged by fires caused by Hezbollah rockets, and at least one forest has lost nearly 75% of its trees. Estimates are that it will take at least 60 years to rehabilitate the forests.

While Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the Hezbollah attacks due to Lebanon’s failure to implement Resolution 1559 calling on it to disarm Hezbollah, Lebanon disavows the raids, stating that the government of Lebanon does not condone them, and that in any case Israel has its own history of disregarding inconvenient UN resolutions. An emergency meeting of the Lebanese government reaffirmed this position. Almost immediately after hostilities began, Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for a ceasefire. On 14 July, following a phone call between Siniora and President Bush, the Prime Minister’s office issued the statement that “Prime Minister Siniora called on President Bush to exert all his efforts on Israel to stop its aggression on Lebanon, reach a comprehensive ceasefire and lift its blockade.”

The next day, in a televised message to the Lebanese people, and afterwards in an interview with CNN, Siniora said “We call for an immediate ceasefire backed by the United Nations.”

At the immediate outset of hostilities, the majority (ten) of the UN Security Council members demanded an immediate cease-fire through a UN draft resolution, which was vetoed by the US. Four nations abstained from voting: UK, Peru, Slovakia, and Denmark.

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, while Israel insisted upon a conditional ceasefire, including the return of the two captured soldiers. Lebanon frequently pled for the United Nations Security Council to call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

On 27 July, Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora presented the 7-point Siniora Plan at a 15-nation conference in Rome, calling for a mutual release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees, a withdrawal of the Israeli ground troops behind the Blue Line, and that the disputed Shebaa Farms area is placed under UN jurisdiction until the ownership issue has been settled.

On 4 August, the United States and France proposed a United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution which Lebanon rejected, as it did not call for immediate Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, nor for an immediate ceasefire.

Finally, on 11 August, 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, and by the Israeli government on 13 August. The ceasefire took effect in the region at 8:00 AM (5:00 AM GMT) on 14 August 2006.

Even before the cease-fire was implemented, two Hezbollah members said that their militia would not disarm south of the Litani River, according to a senior member of the Lebanese cabinet, while Israel has said it will stop withdrawing from South Lebanon if Lebanese troops aren't deployed there within a matter of days.

On 15 August the Associated Press reported that Hezbollah had fired at least 10 Katyusha rockets into southern Lebanon. The IDF stated that as none had crossed the border and there were no casualties, they did not respond. Earlier, skirmishes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah left six guerrillas dead as both sides promised to retaliate when placed on the defensive.

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. A number of governments, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, 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.

Spokespersons from the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and an assortment of human rights organizations condemned Israel for its disproportionate response to Hezbollah’s attacks.

Among neighboring Middle Eastern nations, Iran, Syria, and Yemen voiced strong support for Hezbollah, while the Arab League issued statements condemning both Hezbollah’s attack and Israel’s response.

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 on-line petitions also occurred.

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

The history of conflict between the two countries began with the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. After the 1967 Six Day War, and following the Black September in Jordan, over 110,000 Palestinian refugees migrated to Lebanon, making up, with their descendants, over 400,000 people today. By 1975, they numbered more than 300,000, creating an informal state-within-a-state in South Lebanon. The PLO became a powerful force and played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War. In response to numerous attacks launched from southern Lebanon, Israel invaded in 1978 in an attempt to rout out Palestinian militants. As a result the United Nations passed UN Resolutions 425 and 426, which called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to military action in Lebanon.

At the end of the operation, Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon, leaving behind a UNIFIL force. Israel invaded again four years later in 1982, forcing PLO forces out of Lebanon (mostly to Tunisia), and Israel occupied the southern part of the country. A US brokered peace treaty was ratified by the Lebanese parliament in 1983, but President Amine Gemayel decided against signing in 1984. In 1985, Israel withdrew its forces from parts of Lebanon and remained in a 4–6 kilometre (2.5–3.75 mi) deep strip of southern Lebanon, described by Israel as a "security zone" which it justified as a protective measure to defend its northern towns against Hezbollah attacks. This occupation lasted until 2000. On 24 May 2000 Israel withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon.

The South Lebanon Army's equipment and positions in South Lebanon largely fell into the hands of Hezbollah, which has put considerable effort into fortifying the former security zone and establishing new firing positions. Since then, Hezbollah has repeatedly attacked Israeli military positions, whilst Israel has carried out numerous attacks aimed at striking Hezbollah bases.

On September 2, 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 calling for the disbanding of all Lebanese militias, among other things, and an armed Hezbollah in South Lebanon is seen by many to be a contravention of the resolution. The Lebanese government differs from this interpretation, and the United Nations has not ruled on this matter.

The July-August conflict breached a ceasefire between the sides which had lasted approximately six weeks.

On 26 May 2006, a car bomb in southern Lebanon killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Mahmoud Majzoub, and his brother Nidal. Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora declared Israel the primary suspect. Israel denied involvement.

Early in the morning of 28 May, a barrage of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel. Hours later, Israel responded by bombing suspected militant targets inside Lebanon, and exchanging fire across the border. Before the end of the day, the UN negotiated a ceasefire.

In mid-June, Lebanese authorities arrested members an alleged Israeli spy ring working inside their borders. Mahmoud Rafeh, a retired policeman from Hasbaya, reportedly confessed to the killings and admitted working for Mossad since 1994. Bomb-making materials, code machines and other espionage equipment were found in his home. Lebanese opponents of Hezbollah suspected that the discovery of the Israeli network was a Hezbollah fabrication.

Over the last 30 years, Israel has released about 7,000 prisoners to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others. In October 2000, Hezbollah captured three IDF soldiers who were killed either during the operation or in its immediate aftermath at Shebaa Farms, and kidnapped an Israeli businessman and former army colonel Elchanan Tenenbaum in Kuwait. A prisoner swap was carried out on 29 January 2004: 30 Lebanese and Arab prisoners, the remains of 59 Lebanese militants and civilians, 400 Palestinian prisoners for Tenenbaum and the remains of the three soldiers. Hezbollah requested that maps showing Israeli mines in South Lebanon be included as part of the exchange.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shi'a Islamist organization formed late in 1982 "primarily to offer resistance to the Israeli occupation"; its political rhetoric has consistently called for the destruction of Israel. It is classified to differing degrees as a terrorist organisation by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. The European Union does not list Hezabollah or its constituent groups in its list of terrorist organizations, but does list Hezbollah's senior intelligence officer Imad Mugniyah.

Hezbollah has a military and civilian wing, the latter participating in the Lebanese parliament, currently with 18% of the seats (23 out of 128) and the bloc it forms with others, the "Resistance and Development Bloc", a little less than 30% for a total of 35 seats. It is a minority partner in the current Cabinet.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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