- In July of 2006, Hezbollah – a terrorist organization based in Lebanon – crossed into Israel and ambushed an Israeli border patrol. After killing several members of the patrol, Hezbollah forces abducted two Israeli soldiers and brought them back to Lebanon with the intention of forcing Israel to release terrorists in exchange for their return.
- The resulting war saw Hezbollah fire some 4,000 missiles at civilian centres in northern Israel, as well as Israeli air strikes on missile sites and Israeli ground forces enter south Lebanon.
- UN Resolution 1701 called for a ceasefire and the immediate release of the captured Israeli soldiers, placing the blame on Hezbollah for initiating the conflict.
- Israel’s military campaign, which was widely seen in Israeli society as failing to achieve a decisive outcome, resulted in substantial introspection and reforms to improve the IDF’s preparedness.
Since Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah established its dominance over the area. Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers (through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL), Hezbollah amassed and stockpiled weapons – namely thousands of Katyusha missiles capable of reaching most of northern Israel (including the major port city of Haifa).
In July of 2006, Hezbollah launched several rockets into Israel as a diversion for its planned kidnapping operation – which saw Israeli reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser abducted during a deadly ambush inside Israeli territory. This unprovoked attack was widely condemned in the international community, with even the Saudi foreign minister (Saudi al-Faisal) criticizing Hezbollah’s actions, calling them “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts…. These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.”1
Israel responded swiftly, destroying key infrastructure associated with Hezbollah and targeting Hezbollah missile launch sites. Israel was faced with the acute difficulty of fighting against terror operatives and weapons’ stockpiles embedded with the civilian populations, with Hezbollah effectively using a civilian shield for its attacks. Indeed, Hezbollah’s campaign of indiscriminately firing missiles into northern Israel – with some 4,000 launched during the war – forced hundreds of thousands of Israelis to spend weeks in bomb shelters or flee to central Israel. More than 900 missiles landed in urban areas, and some 6,000 Israeli homes were hit during the conflict. In total, 44 Israeli civilians and 119 IDF soldiers were killed in the Second Lebanon War.
After 34 days of fighting, a ceasefire was announced that ended the conflict. Coupled with the ceasefire was UN Resolution 1701, which called “for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations” and for the unconditional release of the captured Israeli soldiers.2
Although commentators widely believe that Israel had dealt a substantial blow to Hezbollah, the terror group remained heavily armed and largely unimpeded in south Lebanon. Moreover, Israelis issued substantial criticism at the manner in which the government and military leadership handled the war – with accusations that the IDF was not properly prepared for the conflict and operational objectives were not clearly defined. As such, the IDF has since undertaken a significant effort to analyze and apply “lessons learned” from the experience of the Second Lebanon War.
Hezbollah missile strikes apartment complex in Haifa during the Second Lebanon War