Israel and Lebanon: A History

Internal Lebanese politics have long influenced relations with Israel.

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But in February 2005, Syria went a step too far, assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and unleashing a process that eventually forced it to pull its troops out of Lebanon.

In the six years following Israel's withdrawal, Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian support, had built up a an estimated force of 12,000 to 14,000 Katyusha rockets capable of hitting a wide range of Israeli cities, towns and villages. Under the Katyusha umbrella, Hezbollah militiamen felt they could carry out cross-border attacks with relative impunity, confident that Israel would refrain from sharp retaliation for fear of triggering a massive bombardment of its civilian population. Moreover, both the Iranians and the Syrians could use the Hezbollah threat to pressure Israel or intimidate their critics in the international community.

By mid-2006, the situation had become strategically unacceptable to Israel. And the stage was set for the latest showdown.

The Second Lebanon War began on July 12, 2006 when a group of Hezbollah terrorists crossed the border into Israel and attacked Israeli soldiers patrolling the border.  The terrorists killed eight soldiers and kidnapped two others.  The Israeli government responded with an air-strike targeting Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon,  followed later by  a ground offensive designed to remove Hezbollah terrorists from Southern Lebanon.  Hezbollah retaliated by firing Katyusha rockets at Israeli  towns and cities in the North of Israel, at a rate of more than 100 rockets per day for the duration of the conflict.  On August 12, 2006 the war ended with a United-Nations brokered cease-fire in which the Lebanese agreed to take control of Southern Lebanon from the Hezbollah with the help of the United Nations. 

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Leslie Susser is JTA's diplomatic correspondent in Jerusalem. Also the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report, he has covered the peace process and Israeli domestic politics since the early 1990s.