Behind the Headlines: The Second Lebanon War-Three years later
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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 Behind the Headlines: The Second Lebanon War-Three years later

7/12/2009

Three years after the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah continues to be influenced by the aftermath of the war. The organization established itself as a significantly influential figure within Lebanon, as both a political and a military entity.

 

Following the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000 and its redeployment along the Blue Line, in accordance with UN resolutions, Hezbollah maintained an aggressive and provocative approach. This approach included attempted abductions of soldiers as well as terrorist attack on Israeli civilians in the north. On July 12th, 2006, a squad of Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated Israeli territory and attacked an IDF patrol. During the attack and the following rescue attempt of two kidnapped soldiers, eight IDF soldiers were killed. The bodies of the abducted soldiers, Sgt.-Maj. (res.) Ehud Goldwasser and 1st Sgt. (res.) Eldad Regev, were returned on July 16th 2008. In response to the attack, the IDF targeted Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon, as well as the Beirut International Airport, implemented an air and naval blockade and followed with a ground invasion of southern Lebanon.

During the war, which lasted between July 12th and August 14th, the Hezbollah deliberately targeted the Israeli civilian population, launching over 4000 rockets at densely populated areas, killing 44 and wounding over 600. In addition, 121 Israeli soldiers were killed and 450 were wounded. The Hezbollah relied upon a sizeable arsenal, which included over 1000 long-range rockets, over 13,000 short-range rockets, aerial units, naval units and guerilla ground forces with anti-tank capabilities.

The IDF response included the deployment of approximately 10,000 soldiers to Lebanon, 18,800 aerial sorties, the firing of over 120,000 artillery shells and naval shelling. Over 600 Hezbollah terrorists were killed and the Hezbollah infrastructure, including 15,000 structures used by the organization, was severely damaged. During the war, the IDF successfully coordinated 800 relief convoys and 613 aerial, ground and naval evacuations. On August 12th, UNSCR 1701 was accepted, leading to a ceasefire and the ultimate end of the war. The resolution called for the full cessation of hostilities, delineated the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River as a buffer zone, free of “armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”. In addition, the maximum size of the force was expanded to 15,000.

Three Years Later

General

Three years after the Second Lebanon War, the Hezbollah continues to be influenced by the aftermath of the war. The organization's status within Lebanon, as both a political and a military entity, established itself as a significantly influential figure.

Functioning as a remote extension of the radical camp led by Iran, the military recuperation process, which focuses on both qualitative and quantitative expansion, has provided the organization with an arsenal larger than many countries. This has given the Hezbollah sophisticated and long-reaching capabilities in both northern and southern Lebanon, in direct contradiction with UNSCR 1701. It has repeatedly displayed its intent to remain a policy-shaper in the state, going as far as turning its weapons against the Lebanese Army in May of 2008. The subsequent Doha Accords provided it with "Blocking Third" capabilities in the government. In the June 2009 elections, the Hezbollah failed to muster up the same degree of support; the moderate March 14th faction won 71 out of the 128 seats. That said, lacking accomplishments on the ground, this remains confined to the symbolic realm alone.

Force Build-up

Following the Second Lebanon War, the Hezbollah intensified its force build-up program. It has amassed extremely large amounts of weapons in both northern and southern Lebanon, including:

Northern Lebanon Southern Lebanon

Hundreds of 220mm (70km)
and 302mm (115km) rockets

At least 20,000 40km rockets

Several hundred Faajr5(75km)

Hundreds of anti-tank launcher and missiles

Possible dozens of Zilzal
(250km) rockets

Dozens of advanced ATGMs

Dozens of UAVs

Hundreds to thousands of IEDS

Dozens of C-802
coastal missiles

Hundreds of anti-aircraft missile and guns

This considerable arsenal places a large part of Israel within the ranges of the Hezbollah; a particularly worrying fact given the Hezbollah's doctrine, of targeting civilians.

In addition, the missiles which boast longer ranges, such as the Zilzal rocket (250km), are capable of reaching Israeli territory even if shot from well within northern Lebanon.

122 mm // 20 km (12 miles)
Fajar 3 // 43 km (26 miles)
Fajar 5 // 75 km (46 miles)
Zilzal // 250 km (155 miles)
map

Infrastructure

The Hezbollah does not confine its military build-up to arms alone. South of the Litani River there are approximately 10 to 15 closed military zones (CMZ)under Hezbollah control. In addition, Hezbollah has undergone a wide-scale transition towards more populated environments, such as villages. This is yet another example of exploitation of a local civilian population; while the Hezbollah targets civilians within Israel, it also intentionally places the local population in danger, using it as a shield against possible retribution.

photo

This transition also displays flexibility; while UNIFIL has increased its activity in Lebanon, it has not increased its activities within populated areas, providing the organization with free movement. Together, this allows the organization to build its infrastructure within the civilian population while setting the stage for the exploitation of Israeli humanitarian considerations in the case of combat. Beyond this, the Hezbollah also performs regular military exercises in order to preserve combat readiness.

Hezbollah and the Radical Axis

The Hezbollah does not function as an independent political and military entity within Lebanon; it is a front-line proxy, working on behalf of the radical axis and Iran. Like the Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Hezbollah operates within Lebanon to fulfill interests that do not necessarily coincide with national interests. Instead, it promotes a radical Iranian agenda, which focuses on decreasing regional stability. Similar to the aid which the Hamas receives from Iran, the Hezbollah's assistance is manifested in expertise, financial aid, training and weapons.

Syria represents an additional key actor within this chain, with the bulk of the weapon transfers taking place through Syrian territory. The following figure explains the process of smuggling-weapons from Syria, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or Hezbollah storage centers within Syria are transferred to swap zones near the border and then sent onwards to various locations throughout Lebanon, including areas south of the Litani River. 

image

The weapons which are transferred over the Litani are transferred via a number of crossings.

map

While domestically, the Hezbollah presents itself as "Lebanon's Protector, its actions betray the degree to which its interests differ. In late 2008, a Hezbollah network which reportedly included 49 operatives was exposed in Egypt. Beyond the Hezbollah-admitted smuggling of weapons and aid to the Hamas, the network gathered information on targets within Egypt and acquired materials for bombs, including C4 explosives.

IDF Lessons Learned

The IDF undergoes constant self-evaluation in order to allow ongoing development and progress. As such, the Second Lebanon War served as a valuable opportunity to inspect capabilities, operating procedures and readiness. Following vigorous and thorough inspections throughout the army, including aerial, naval and ground units, regular and reserve units as well as combat and supporting units, the IDF has steadily improved itself since the war.

This self-improvement is manifested in a number of ways. Military exercises have been increased, with over 200% growth in the amount of exercise held compared to 2006. Beyond the sheer quantity, the exercises also place an increased focus on inter-operability between various units. Training facilities have also received heightened focus.
Additional focus has been placed on expanding the acquisition of military equipment, bolstered by approximately two billion shekels for this purpose.

Focal Points

  • Three years after the Second Lebanon War, the Hezbollah continues to strengthen itself, both qualitatively and quantitatively, through assistance from both Syria and Iran, while establishing itself as the "Protector of Lebanon". It continues to exist as an army side-by-side with the LA and prepare for confrontation, including attempted terrorist attacks. Israel expects any Lebanese government to act against any violent activity which may originate from its territory.
  • While the results of the June elections presented the moderate camp with an important symbolic victory, these remain symbolic alone until backed by actual changes on the ground.
  • Israel seeks a political solution with Lebanon. The moderate forces in Lebanon must determine whether to pursue this or to continue to allow their policies to be dictated by Hezbollah guidelines, risking an additional escalation, which would have dire effects on Lebanon.
  • The international community must demand the commencement of processes aimed at disarming the Hezbollah and de-legitimizing the resistance.
  • Hezbollah, as an Iranian agent representing foreign interests, forwards a policy which contradicts the interests of Lebanon and its citizens. Its aggressive behaviour resulted in significant damage to Lebanon, and it has shown a willingness to turn its guns on political opponents within Lebanon. The military infrastructure it intends to target Israeli communities with should the situation escalate is located within populated areas, reflecting its apathy as to the fate of the local civilians.
  • Simultaneously. The organization is attempting to promote its radical ideology in other arenas, via international terrorist attacks, insurgent terrorist activity within Egypt and assistance to Palestinian terrorist organizations.
  • As a whole, organizations like the Hezbollah and the Hamas place the local population and the state within which they operate in a great deal of damage, ignoring local interests.
  • The calm on the border today is a direct result of the war. However, the ongoing force build-up, together with the Hezbollah's radical ideology, increases the chance of escalation.
  • UNSCR 1701 provides a partial framework for maintaining the calm on the border but has completely failed to prevent weapon smuggling to the Hezbollah. As per the United Nation's decisions, the international community must enforce the weapon embargo.
  • The international community must play an active role in promoting positive development in the region; first and foremost by reducing the extensive smuggling which the radical axis relies upon to fortify the Hezbollah. Only in conjunction with the weakening of the Hezbollah will the strengthening of the moderate camp be effective.
  • The IDF underwent a throughout process of self-improvement following the war, substantially improving its exercises, supply stocks and doctrines. As a result, its readiness and combat abilities today are considerably better.
 
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