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The Hezbollah War

About Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah is a Shi’ite terrorist group based in Lebanon, funded and armed by Iran with Syrian assistance. Founded by Iran’s revolutionary government in 1982, Hezbollah killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization until Al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans in its attacks on the U.S. in 2001.
  • Hezbollah’s Iranian sponsor shares its stated objective, which is to destroy Israel.
  • Hezbollah shares the radical Islamist goal of defeating the West, destroying Israel and committing genocide against Jews.
  • Hezbollah engaged in terrorist acts worldwide.
  • When Israel left southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah took over the area and continued its terrorism along Israel’s northern border.
  • Some experts view the Hezbollah War as Iran’s first strike against a U.S. ally. Given Iran’s efforts to develop nonconventional weapons and its stated intention to destroy the Jewish State, Israel sees Hezbollah as an Iranian foothold on its northern border and as a serious threat.
  • Hezbollah openly acknowledges that it assists Palestinian terrorist organizations.
  • Leading up to the war with Israel, Hezbollah had evolved into an Iranian proxy army on Israel’s northern border and was rapidly acquiring longer-range missiles that could deliver nonconventional weapons.
  • Israel views Iran, Hezbollah and their growing arsenal as an existential threat.
  • Many Middle East experts claim that Hezbollah is holding Lebanon “hostage.” Though Hezbollah has been part of the Lebanese government since 1992, it is also regarded as an illegitimate “state within a state” that is controlled by Iran and Syria. UN Resolution 1559 called for Lebanon to dismantle all the armed militias that remained after the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). Yet the Lebanese government has been unable or afraid to dismantle the group.
    • The Lebanese government was not consulted about Hezbollah’s act of war against Israel, but Lebanon’s decision to recognize Hezbollah as a legal political party and its failure to disarm the group made it complicit in the attack against Israel.

The War

  • On July 12, 2006, as Israeli soldiers were on routine patrol along the Israeli side of the internationally recognized Israel-Lebanon border (the Blue Line), Hezbollah commandos crossed the border, kidnapped two soldiers and killed a total of eight soldiers that day. Simultaneously, Hezbollah launched rockets on Israel’s northern towns.
  • The ensuing war lasted 34 days. It ended with UN resolution 1701, which went into effect on August 14. The UN hoped that a contingent of international troops would implement both Resolution 1701 and an earlier UN Resolution, 1559, which had also called for Hezbollah’s disarmament.
  • The ceasefire is still in place with no major incidents, but Hezbollah refuses to disarm or free the abducted Israeli soldiers.
  • Real uncertainty remains about how and whether Hezbollah will ever be disarmed and whether there will be an end to the flow of weapons to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria, which destabilizes Lebanon and the region.
  • Hezbollah’s attack was an unprovoked act of war. This aggression was not over territory, nor was it resistance to “occupation.” Israel did not occupy any Lebanese land. Six years earlier, in June 2000, Israel had withdrawn completely from its security zone in southern Lebanon. Israel had created this zone in response to the PLO’s border attacks from Lebanon in the 1970s (see pages 12 and 13). The UN verified Israel’s full withdrawal on June 18, 2000.

Disproportionate Force?
Some people wondered if Israel used disproportionate force against Hezbollah. Yet Israel faced a formidable enemy.

  • Hezbollah spent the six years after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon digging fortifications and amassing state-of-the-art weapons. “Hezbollah is a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state,” according to the New York Times.
  • Hezbollah had night-vision goggles, satellite communications and some of the world’s best infantry weapons, including modern, Russian-made antitank weapons and Semtex plastic explosives, wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missile with double-phased explosive warheads and a range of about two miles. It had 11,500 short- to medium-range missile and rockets; advanced missiles such as the Fajr (range o 100 kilometers); Iran 130 (range of 90-110 kilometers); Shahi (range up to 150 kilometers) and 355-millimeter rockets (rang of 150 kilometers); and Chinese-made, Iranian-delivered radar-guided ground-to-ship missiles and drones (remote piloted aircraft laden with explosives).
  • Hezbollah was not acting alone. It was supported and armed by Iran and Syria.
  • Israel’s military goals were to free its abducted soldiers, see the implementation of Resolution 1559, which called for Hezbollah’s disarmament, and to remove the terrorist threat from its northern border. The seriousness of this threat was confirmed by Hezbollah’s ability to bombard Israel’s northern towns and by Hezbollah’s threats on Tel Aviv.
  • Israel intercepted Hezbollah drones that were targeting Tel Aviv.
  • Israel placed a high priority on protecting Israeli and Lebanese civilians.
    • Nearly 1 million Israeli citizens hid in prepared bomb shelters in northern Israel, and hundreds of thousands fled to safer areas in the country
    • Israel dropped leaflets and used the media to warn Lebanese civilians of Israel’s planned operations so they could move to safer areas, even though this warning eliminated the strategic advantage of surprise.
    • Despite the greater risk to soldiers’ lives, Israel used ground troops in many situations in order to avoid endangering Lebanese civilians. When intelligence reports revealed that an Israeli air strike on the fiercely contested Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail might cause dozens of civilian deaths, Israel instead sent in ground troops in order to prevent Lebanese civilian casualties. Dozens of soldiers died in the face-to-face fighting.
    • Israel used surgical strikes at specific Hezbollah targets to avoid harming Lebanese civilians.
  • In contrast, Hezbollah targeted Israeli citizens and intentionally endangered Lebanese civilians and UN forces.
    • Hezbollah fired over 3,970 rockets in the 34 days of war. Over 220 rockets were launched on one day alone. Nine hundred one hit population centers. Toward the end of the war, Hezbollah urged Israeli-Arabs to leave Haifa because they were also potential victims of the indiscriminate attacks.
    • Hezbollah launched 113 Chinese-made Type-81 cluster bombs, which contained over 4,400 individual submunitions, according to Human Rights Watch.
    • Hezbollah mounted its operations from civilian centers, using the population as human shields, because it knows Israel consistently tries to avoid harming noncombatants. Yet Hezbollah also knows that Israel’s military is, of necessity, equipped to retaliate immediately on the sites where rockets and missiles are launched in order to prevent further attacks on its population. By using this tactic, Hezbollah intentionally endangered Lebanese civilians.
    • There is evidence that Hezbollah chose this strategy so Israel would be forced to strike civilian centers and then be condemned by the international community for doing so. Hezbollah made no effort to provide bomb shelters or civil defense for Lebanese civilians who lived near its launch sites.
    • There are Lebanese reports that Hezbollah came to their towns, dug underground bunkers to store weapons and then built schools and homes over them.
    • There is also strong evidence that Hezbollah was digging fortifications and operating close to UN outposts in Lebanon, intentionally endangering UN forces.
    • Hezbollah’s tactics, such as launching attacks from homes and community centers, using ordinary people as protective shields and having its fighters dress like and mingle with civilians, caused the major civilian toll in Lebanon.
    • Hezbollah’s strategy of hiding among civilians, launching attacks from civilian centers such as schools and mosques, and deliberately endangering noncombatants violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a war crime according to international law.

The War’s Toll on Israel

  • The Human Toll
    • 162 Israelis were killed, including 43 Christian, Jewish and Muslim civilians and 119 IDF soldiers.
    • 4,262 civilians were wounded.
    • Over 2 million people–almost a third of Israel’s population–were within Hezbollah rocket range.
    • 300,000 - 500,000 Israelis were displaced.
    • More than 1 million residents were forced to live in bomb shelters for the 34 days.
  • The Economic Toll
    • 6,000 homes were hit by rockets.
    • $1.6 billion–estimated cost of damage to the economy.
    • $5.3 billion–cost of the war.
    • $335.4 million–estimated compensation to be given to the population of northern Israel.
    • $460 million in aid will be given to local governments and emergency services in northern Israel.
    • 630 factories in northern Israel were closed.
    • $1.4 billion was lost by businesses in northern Israel.
    • 1.5 percent: Estimated loss in GDP.
  • Environmental Losses
    • 50-60 years before Israel’s forests recover.
    • 6,178 acres of grazing land burned.
    • 618 acres of natural or planted forest burned.

Dispute about Shebaa Farms

  • Hezbollah claims Shebaa Farms is Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory to justify continuing its terrorism against Israel. But Lebanon has never governed the Shebaa Farms. Israel captured them—a 10-square-mile area with 14 farms located at the intersection of the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese borders—from Syria in its defensive 1967 War.
  • During Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, Lebanon, backed by Syria, argued that the Farms were also part of Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory, but the UN categorically rejected the claim, confirming they were part of Syria.