The 2006 Lebanon War: Hezbollah’s expensive victory ten years on

Hezbollah’s expensive victory

Story for Al Arabiya English

James Haines-Young, Special to Al Arabiya English Friday, 15 July 2016

Beirut – On the morning of July 12, 2006 Hezbollah commandos launched a cross-border raid on an Israeli armored patrol, killing two soldiers and taking two hostages.

The act would, over the next few days, escalate into the devastating 34-day conflict between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Shiite military-political force. While many would see it as a win for the force, Hezbollah’s expensive victory in the 2006 war cost Lebanon dearly.

The 2006 war came at a huge price, especially for Lebanon. Some 1,200 Lebanese died, the vast majority of them civilians and an estimated one third of them children. It also caused the displacement of a third of the country’s 4.5 million people. Almost every bridge in the country and thousands of buildings, vital infrastructure, transport hubs, and industrial buildings were damaged or destroyed. Indeed, the Lebanese government estimated the bill for reconstruction was $2.8 billion.

Meanwhile, 43 Israeli civilians died – mostly in indiscriminate rocket fire from Hezbollah –and 117 IDF soldiers were killed in the conflict.

While both sides declared victory, most observers agree Israel failed in almost all its strategic objectives. Far from destroying or degrading Hezbollah, the 2006 war emboldened Israel’s old foe and entrenched it into the fabric of Lebanon. On top of this, Israel also failed to retrieve the two kidnapped soldiers alive.

“Israel didn’t achieve what it wanted militarily. Hezbollah stood up to them and didn’t lose,” said Timur Goksel, who served as spokesperson and advisor for UNIFIL – the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon – for 24 years. “The metric [of victory for Hezbollah] was the end result: Israel didn’t achieve its military ends and they caused friction and debate in Israel. You just can’t use the classic metrics of success.”

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A victory?

This idea was echoed by Thanassis Cambanis, a fellow at the Century Foundation and author of a book on Hezbollah, ‘A Privilege to Die.’

“Hezbollah had a clear strategy from the beginning to frame the conflict as a victory if they simply survived,” he told Al Arabiya English. “This was a very smart strategy, it’s hard to have imagined a situation in which Hezbollah was totally destroyed.”

Cambanis also highlighted that Israel’s approach of overwhelming air bombardment – which became known as the Dahiya Doctrine after the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut – also helped bolster support for the ‘Party of God’. “At the beginning in Lebanon there was a feeling that Hezbollah provoked this suffering, but when Israel’s bombing gathered force it silenced any blame,” he explained.

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Tags: Al Arabiya, Hezbollah, Israel, Living in Lebanon, Nasrallah, refugees, victory, and War.