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The Second Lebanon War

The Second Lebanon War was waged between the Israeli army and the Hizballah forces in the summer of 2006. The Second Lebanon War took place in Lebanon and Northern Israel. Throughout the war thousands of rockets were launched into Northern Israel and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) entered Lebanese territory. In Lebanon, this war is referred to as “The 34 Day War” or the “July War”.

The Second Lebanon War began on July 12, 2006 with the abduction of two IDF soldiers. It was concluded on August 14, 2006 with a cease-fire agreement that was reached under the auspices of the UN.


The roots of the Second Lebanon War were planted in 1982 during the First Lebanon War when the IDF crossed into Lebanon during operation “Peace in the Galilee”. At the end of the war the IDF remained in control of a strip of land in southern Lebanon which was given the nickname of “the security zone”. At the beginning of March 2000, the Israeli government decided that Israeli forces would leave Lebanon by July 2000 – with or without an agreement between the two countries. The main motivation behind this decision was the continuous violence between the IDF and Hizballah regarding this area and the numerous casualties it caused. In May 2000, the IDF left Lebanon and returned to the international borders of Lebanon and Israel. Within a short time Hizballah positioned itself along this entire border.

After the pull-back, with the encouragement and financial support of Iran and Syria, Hizballah established themselves in southern Lebanon. Hizballah amassed weapons that had previously never been in their possession, such as long range missiles that could reach much of Israel’s cities, including Tel Aviv. Additionally, Hizballah also acquired advanced anti-tank and anti-airplane missiles. The Iranian military and intelligence forces trained the Hizballah fighters to prepare for war with Israel. They set up outposts and bunkers close to the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Hizballah began a limited offense with Israel during which they also prepared for incursions into Israel. In the year 2000, Hizballah forces entered Israeli territory and kidnapped three Israeli soldiers from Har Dov (Dov Mountain). Additionally, they captured an IDF reserve colonel while he was out of the country. Israel agreed to a prisoner exchange in which Israel released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for her soldiers. 

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 which determines the terms under which the Syrian army was to leave Lebanon and Syrian armed forces on Lebanese territory were to be withdrawn. However the Hizballah organization, which was strengthening its political position in Lebanon, prevented the Lebanese government from carrying out this Resolution.

On the morning of July 12th, at close to 9:00 am, Hizballah forces attacked Northern Israel with rockets and artillery shells. Eleven Israeli soldiers and citizens were injured in this attack, some of them in serious condition. At 9:05, a group of Hizballah fighters broke through the border fence and entered Israeli territory attacking two Israeli patrol jeeps with anti-tank missiles and guns. The Hizballah fighters killed three Israeli soldiers who were in the jeeps and kidnapped two more- Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. The terrorist group pulled back into Lebanon taking the two kidnapped soldiers with them. An Israeli tank that entered Lebanon in search of the captives drove over a mine field and the four soldiers in it were killed. In an attempt to pull the bodies out of the tank, an additional IDF soldier was killed by sniper fire.

Additional Hizballah activity took place about two weeks after these occurrences. Another Israeli soldier, named Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped near the Gaza strip by Hamas. This led to an Israeli incursion into Gaza.


A short time after the soldiers were kidnapped, the Israeli government convened for an emergency meeting during which it was unanimously decided to carry out “Sachar Holem”, fitting retribution – wide spread army activity against Hizballah forces in Lebanon.


During his speech to the Knesset (parliament) on July 17th, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented his objectives for the upcoming military mission: the release of the two kidnapped soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, by pressuring Hizballah and Lebanon; a total and unilateral cease fire; the withdrawal of Hizballah and Lebanese forces from Southern Lebanon; the complete removal of the threat of rockets being fired into Israeli territory.

The War

During the first stage of the Second Lebanon War the IDF opened with an air strike on thousands of targets in Lebanon: Hizballah strongholds along the border, ammunition storage facilities, training camps, Hizballah military headquarters in Lebanon, Beirut airport, bridges and much more. An emphasis was placed on targeting rocket launching sites that Hizballah had set up – in order to reduce the amount of rockets being launched into Israel.

By the 18th of July the air force succeeded in destroying the majority of Hizballah’s long range rocket launchers.

The air force scattered notices throughout southern Lebanon warning the villagers to leave their houses. A blockade by sea and air was imposed on Lebanon. The IDF prevented vessels from entering or leaving Lebanon, except for those carrying humanitarian aid and boats taking refugees from Lebanon.

Hizballah launched thousands of rockets into Israel. By the second day of the war, 100 katyusha rockets had already landed in Israel, one of them falling in the city of Haifa. On that same day 115 citizens were injured and two were killed. Throughout the following days Hizballah continued to launch hundreds of different types of rockets into Israel causing all the Northern residents of Israel, from as south as Haifa, to seek refuge in bomb shelters and fortified rooms.

On the 14th of July, Hizballah shot a rocket at an Israeli boat carrying missiles. The rocket hit the boat and killed four Israeli soldiers.

As the fighting continued, Israel broadened the activities of its infantry and other ground forces. On the 17th of July they began destroying Hizballah strongholds close to the border fence and cleaning the ground nearby of bombs and mines. Due to the continuous launching of rockets into Israel, the government dispatched reinforcements to IDF ground forces in Southern Lebanon.

On July 23rd, the Israeli army began a mission called “Korei Plada” (steel beams). The goal of this mission was to take hold of a strip of land near the border, cleanse it of all Hizballah fighters, and remove all of the organization’s bunkers. IDF forces met with extremely strong resistance and had to send in a larger number of troops than had been anticipated. Later, reservists, too, were called up to join in the fighting. The Israeli forces encountered harsh fighting in the small towns and villages that dotted the border, resulting in a large number of casualties.

In addition to the constant fighting on the border, the IDF also performed many missions deep in Lebanon, most of which were carried out by elite fighting units.

On August 11th, before a cease fire was agreed upon in the UN, Olmert ordered the army to carry out “Shinuy Kivun 11” (11th hour shift), a mission that was intended to assist the army in achieving a clear victory, lessen the number of rockets that were still being launched into Israel, and improve Israel’s position in the international negotiations that were expected at the end of the war. In this last-minute mission that sent Israeli forces into Lebanon, the goal was to gain control of all the territory south of the Litani River. The IDF changed its methods and instead of meticulously purifying village after village, they quickly advanced to the Litany River. Three units penetrated deep into Lebanon, while paratroopers parachuted in and the battles intensified.

On August 12th the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 that called for a cease-fire between the two sides. This was to take effect on August 14th and officially end the war, though Israeli forces were still in Lebanon. During the following days, the IDF gradually withdrew its forces from Lebanon as the Lebanese army and international forces took over positions in southern Lebanon. At the beginning of September, Israel lifted the sea and air blockade of Lebanon. On October 1, 2006, after INIFIL and Lebanese forces took over, Israeli forces left Lebanon and realigned along the border between the two states.

Throughout the war, Hizballah initiated no attacks or incursions but rather focused on defending itself against the Israeli maneuvers and attacks. Most of its activity was defending and setting traps in villages or shooting rockets and missiles into Israel aimed at Israeli citizens and soldiers.

During the war 164 Israelis were killed, 119 soldiers and 45 citizens. Hundreds of people were injured and close to 4,000 rockets fell inside Israel. Israel suffered considerable economic damage. In Lebanon 700 Hizballah fighters were killed and about 1,000 were injured.

The Israeli Front

From the beginning until the end of the war, Hizballah shot thousands of rockets and missiles into northern Israel, intending to harm its residents and local population. Over the 33 days of fighting about 4,000 rockets and missiles were successfully put out of commission, 901 of them aimed at populated areas. 520 of the missiles that fell fell within city limits.

Because of the rockets, the day to day life of the northern residents was seriously disrupted. In towns close to the border, which received most of the hits, residents spent most of their time in bomb shelters and secure rooms. The constant fire and harsh conditions caused many of the residents to abandon their homes and seek shelter in central and southern Israel. The rockets and missiles resulted in the deaths of 45 citizens of Israel.

The UN Resolution

On August 11, 2006, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 regarding the cease- fire in the Middle East. It called for “complete cessation of attacks, specifically immediate cessation of Hizzballah attacks and immediate cessation of the Israeli military activities.”

The resolution included a recommendation for enlarging UNIFIL forces by placing 15,000 armed UN soldiers, with authority to open fire, throughout southern Lebanon. According to section 12: “The UN forces will take any steps needed to ensure that the area in which it is operating will not be used for any sort of offensive activity and will take strong measures to prevent shooting.” This section also states the obligation placed on these forces to “protect citizens from any threat of physical danger”. The forces were to take control as the Israeli army pulls back from southern Lebanon up to the line from which Israeli forces were no longer obligated to withdraw.

The agreement also stated that arms can be imported into Lebanon only with the approval of the Lebanese government and placed an embargo on importing arms for Hizballah use. It called for the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers without fixing conditions for carrying out this resolution. In Resolution 1559,  the UN guaranteed to increase its efforts to achieve the dismantling of armed militia forces in Lebanon.

Results and Implications of the war

The Second Lebanon War ended without a clear victor. Throughout the war, the Hizballah forces succeeded in maintaining their ability to shoot rockets into most of northern Israel. This ability was maintained even after the end of the war.

IDF activity during the war greatly damaged the Hizballah military infrastructure, especially in southern Lebanon. However, this was not done so thoroughly that would be difficult to recover from. One can definitely say that since the war ended Hizballah has been focusing its efforts in rebuilding and strengthening its foundation with the aid of Iranian money.

Together with this, the influx of the Lebanese army into the southern part of the country and the strengthening of the international forces in the area should bolster the sovereignty of the country and its control over Hizballah.

During the war, numerous failures in IDF operations and preparations on the civilian front came to light. Exposure and investigation of these shortcomings are likely to result in improved preparations by the Israeli government and the Israeli army regarding future fighting.

IDF operations during the war did not result in the release of the captured soldiers, which was one of the main causes of the outbreak of the war.

On July 16, 2008, after negotiations engineered by the Germans, a prisoner exchange was finalized between the Israelis and Hizballah. Israel released the terrorist Samir Kuntar, four other Lebanese captives, and 199 bodies of terrorists killed in operations in exchange for the bodies of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.