The war between Israel and Lebanon began in as early as 1979 and went on up to 2006. In between, there were intermittent wars between these two countries. However, a full scale war with devastating effects was fought in July of 2006 in an operation christened by the Israelis Operation Change of Direction.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched air attacks on the southern Lebanon up to Beirut destroying everything on their path including infrastructure and human beings civilians, suspected Hezbollah militia and their sympathizers.
In retaliation, the Hezbollah under the leadership of Nasrallah responded by firing thousands of missiles and unmanned planes killing several Israeli soldiers, civilians and destroying properties especially those in the north of Israel1.
This full scale war started by Israel was triggered by the killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah militias in international territory. The release of the captured soldiers was an important element in the decision making process by the Israelis.
However, considering the magnitude of the atrocity committed by the Hezbollah, they soon changed their tact. Over the years since the formation of Hezbollah to fight for the rights of the minority Shi’a Muslims, it grew in strength by each passing day. It became more powerful politically and militarily. Its popularity among the Lebanese was growing2.
Thus, the IDF found this act as a way of completely wiping Hezbollah away. The Israel Defense Forces decision to invade Lebanon during this time was guided by the urge to eliminate Hezbollah which has led a sustained rockets and missile attacks on their civilians living along the northern Israeli border.
Another element that played a crucial role in the decision making process of the Israelis during the Lebanon-Israel conflict was the need by the Israel to show its military strength in the Middle East. Considered by almost all Arab nations around it as an enemy, Israel took this opportunity to show case its military strength by completely obliterating Hezbollah one of it sworn enemies.
Israel had a long standing feud with Egypt, Syria, Iran, Palestine and Iraq which make up most of her Arab neighbors. To further heighten the tensions, Hezbollah was receiving financial assistance, military training and weapons and spiritual guidance from Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Thus, victory over the Hezbollah in Lebanon and their complete obliteration by the IDF would have been considered a victory over her sworn enemies. To further escalate the enmity, Syria occupied Lebanon by then providing the Hezbollah government with intelligence services too.
The decision by the Israeli Defense Forces to launch a full scale and other intermittent wars in Lebanon was ameliorated by the politics taking place in Lebanon, Israel and United States of America. With the backing of Syria, the Lebanese parliament extended the term of President Lahoud who supported Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Moreover, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who opposed the Syrian was also assassinated in 2005 with Syria being implicated3. All these were seen by Israel as signs that Lebanon and Syria were not willing to honor the UN Security Council Resolution 1559.
This resolution called for disarming and disbanding all the militias and regaining of Lebanese sovereignty. In the United States, the Congress passed resolutions to increase pressure on Syria through trade sanctions aimed at limiting the powers of both Iran and Syria which funded and trained the Hezbollah militias.
In Israel, the new Prime Minister Olmert directed his foreign policies towards eliminating the threat of Hezbollah. All in all, the truce brokered by the UN Resolution 1701 left every side claiming victory with loss of innocent civilian lives and destruction of properties being noted4. It allowed for a give and take situation.
Harik, Judith. Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London and New York, I.B.Tauris, 2005.
Telhami, Shibley. “Lebanese Identity and Israeli Security in the Shadows of the 2006 War”, Current History, (2007): 22.
Valbjorn, Morten and Bank, André. “Signs of a New Arab Cold War – The 2006 Lebanon War and the Sunni-Shi’i Divide.” Middle East Report 242 (2007): 7.
Waxman, Dov. “Between Victory and Defeat: Israel after the War with Hizballah.” The Washington Quarterly 30.1 (2006-2007): 28.
1 Harik, Judith. Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London and New York, I.B.Tauris, 2005.
2 Telhami, Shibley. “Lebanese Identity and Israeli Security in the Shadows of the 2006 War”, Current History, (2007): 22.
3 Valbjorn, Morten and Bank, André. “Signs of a New Arab Cold War – The 2006 Lebanon War and the Sunni-Shi’i Divide.” Middle East Report 242 (2007): 7.
4 Waxman, Dov. “Between Victory and Defeat: Israel after the War with Hizballah.” The Washington Quarterly 30.1 (2006-2007): 28.