- In July 2006, Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based terrorist organization, crossed into Israel and ambushed an Israeli border patrol. After killing several patrol members, Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers 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 entering south Lebanon.
- UN Resolution 1701 called for a ceasefire and immediate release of the captured Israeli soldiers, placing the blame on Hezbollah for initiating the conflict.
- Israel’s military campaign, which was seen in Israel as failing to achieve a decisive outcome, resulted in debate and reforms to improve the IDF’s preparedness.
Since Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah established dominance over the area. Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers (through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL), Hezbollah stockpiled thousands of Katyusha missiles capable of reaching most of northern Israel (including the major port city of Haifa).
In July 2006, Hezbollah launched several missiles into Israel as a diversion for its planned kidnapping operation – in which Israeli reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were abducted during a deadly ambush inside Israeli territory. This unprovoked attack was widely condemned, with even the Saudi foreign minister, Saudi al-Faisal, calling Hezbollah’s actions “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible….These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.”1
Israel responded swiftly, destroying key Hezbollah infrastructure and targeting their missile sites. Israel was faced with the challenge of fighting terror operatives and their weapon stockpiles embedded in 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 ended the conflict along with 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 were critical of how their 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. 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