A Brief Background
After the British mandate left Palestina in 1947, (a name given to the land of Israel by the conquering Romans), the Arabs refused to divide the land and attacked the Jews in the land from all sides. Against all odds, Israel won the war of Independence and became a nation in 1948. The name of the land was changed back to the land of Israel and Jewish citizens to Israelis instead of Palestinians (all people living in the land before 48 were called Palestinians, Jews and Arabs.) Many Arabs fled in the war to neighboring countries, mainly Jordan and Egypt.
Lebanon was at that time multi-sectarian, with Sunni Muslims and Christians being the majorities in the coastal cities, Shia Muslims in the south and east, and Druze and Christian in the mountains. The Lebanese government operated under the influence of the elites Maronite Christians and the western world. However, the Muslims opposed the western influence of the government.
The Palestinian Arabs formed the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and Fatah brigade to fight Israel.
After the six-day war with Israel, Jordan lost the West Bank and allowed Fatah under the PLO and their leader, Yasser Arafat, into the country from where they stepped up their guerrilla attacks against Israel. However, after many fights with the PLO who turned against the Jordanian leadership, they were expelled to southern Lebanon along with Yasser Arafat, where they regrouped.
The enlarged PLO presence in Lebanon and the intensification of fighting on the Israeli–Lebanese border stirred up internal unrest in Lebanon. The PLO recruited militants from among the families of Arab Palestinians who had fled to Lebanon during the Israeli independence war.
Demographic tensions over the Lebanese National Pact led to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) where militia clashed with Palestinian factions over their terror attacks against Israel from Lebanese territory.
A PLO terror attack on March 11, 1978, was the last straw for Israel. An Israeli bus was seized by terrorists, and 38 Israeli civilians including 13 children were killed, with 76 wounded. The Israeli air force, navy, and land units entered south Lebanon with the aim of capturing the strongholds of the terrorist groups. Heavy face-to-face fighting resulted in Israel taking over the south Lebanon region, 300 terrorists were dead and many civilians fled to northern Lebanon, among them many terrorists. Israel suffered 18 dead soldiers.
Eventually, Israel withdrew back to the original border. UNIFIL units were stationed in the demilitarized zone. Another force, the Christian militia who were favorable to Israel and were supported by the Israeli army, formed the army of south Lebanon there.
However, terror attacks continued now from northern Lebanon which fired Katyusha rockets and missiles into northern Israel. Simultaneously, Israeli and Jewish targets were hit around the world. The situation became unbearable, forcing Israel to launch another large-scale military operation in 1982.
This new operation, called “Peace in Galilee” targeted the terror organizations who had returned to southern Lebanon. Heavy fighting broke out between the Israeli army and PLO terrorists who also had headquarters in Beirut. Many Katyusha rockets were fired into northern Israeli northern population. Israeli paratroopers fought terror pockets in villages along the road from the border to Beirut.
The Israeli army got tangled up in the Lebanese war against thousands of terrorists who were hiding in densely populated areas with the help of the Syrian army. The result was the defeat of the Syrian army, the death, and capture of many terrorists and much ammunition being taken by Israel. The PLO was expelled from Lebanon, including Arafat who fled to Tunisia.
Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1985 but kept control of a 12-mile security buffer zone, held with the aid of proxy militants of the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Israel suffered many losses, about 1200 soldiers died in the first Lebanon war between the years 1982-2000. The war also resulted in the surfacing in south Lebanon of another terror organization, Hezbollah.
Eventually, the Israeli army had to withdraw also from the militarized zone in southern Lebanon in 2000.
The Rise of Hezbollah
Hezbollah, which means in Arabic “Party of Allah”, is a Shi’a Islamist militant organization and political party based in Lebanon headed by Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah, along with its military wing is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union.
Following the Islamic revolution in Shīʿite Iran in 1979 and the Israeli operation in Lebanon in 1982, a group of Lebanese Shīʿite clerics formed the Hezbollah organization, which holds to an extreme Shīʿite ideology with three main aims: Jihad (holy war) against all foreigners in Lebanon, the destruction and annihilation of Israel; and spreading the Islamic revolution and turning Lebanon into another Islamic republic like Iran. Since its beginning, Hezbollah organization considers Israel an enemy and never refers to it by its name but rather calls it “occupied Palestine,” or the “Zionist enemy.”
Hezbollah organization uses guerrilla and terror warfare in order to achieve its goals. It promotes suicide bombing, kidnappings, car bombings and grand terror attacks around the world and against foreigners in Lebanon, which gives other terror organizations inspiration to do the same. Hezbollah was based in the predominately Shīʿite areas in southern Lebanon, and southern Beirut. Throughout the 1980s, Hezbollah engaged in attacks against Israel and fought in Lebanon’s civil war (1975–90). It also worked at establishing a comprehensive social services network for its supporters.
Being a proxy of Iran and Syria, Hezbollah remained a militia organization after the end of the Lebanese civil war In May 1991, when the other militias were dissolved and continued to fight a sustained guerrilla campaign against Israel in southern Lebanon.
After the Israeli army withdrew from the militarized zone in southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah took control over the area, with the help of Syria and Iran. It built many headquarters and strongholds, built military infrastructures, and a massive missile and rocket arsenal. Hezbollah members were trained in progressive fighting techniques by Iranian military and intelligence personnel, who helped build bunkers across the Israeli border in South Lebanon, and assisted in forming command headquarters and control and surveillance systems within the organization’s headquarters in southern Beirut.
On July 12th, 2006, Hezbollah executed a preplanned artillery attack across the Israeli northern border. They ambushed two Israeli patrol vehicles, killing three Israeli soldiers, wounding two and kidnapping two.
IDF (Israeli Defense Force) began a war against Hezbollah with an aerial attack on thousands of targets within Lebanon: Hezbollah’s rocket system, Hezbollah posts, arms storages, training camps, command headquarters, Beirut Airport, and bridges. The Israeli Air Force dropped pamphlets calling Lebanese citizens of settlements in southern Lebanon to evacuate their homes.
Hezbollah began firing hundreds of rockets towards populated areas in Israel. The citizens of Haifa and northern Israel had to reside in shelters and protected areas. On July 14th, Hezbollah fired at an Israeli missile boat, in which four naval soldiers were killed. The war escalated into massive attacks and crackdowns on all terrorists who were hiding in civilian facilities.
In the 33 days of the war, there were 164 Israeli citizen casualties (119 soldiers and 45 civilians) and hundreds injured. Approximately 4,000 rockets hit the north of Israel and significant economic damages were incurred. Hezbollah had also lost hundreds of its members and the organization’s strategic fighting ability was hurt. Its headquarters in South Beirut were destroyed.
On August 11th, the United Nations’ Security Council issued a resolution calling for “a complete halt of acts of aggression, and especially those committed by Hezbollah and the military actions of Israel.”
The UN resolution called for the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Force from Lebanon and for the South Lebanon Army and UNIFIL to take control over the south Lebanon area, prohibition of carrying arms without the consent of the Lebanese government; and the prohibition of the trade or transfer of arms to Hezbollah. Lebanon had to see to the disarmament of armed militias and the unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers imprisoned.
Somehow Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, emerged from the war with Israel as heroes throughout much of the Arab world. Hezbollah used its new position to attempt to topple Lebanon’s government after its demands for more cabinet seats were denied.
In May 2008, clashes between Hezbollah forces and government supporters in Beirut were sparked by government decisions that included plans to dismantle Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network. Nasrallah saw it as a declaration of war and mobilized Hezbollah forces, which quickly took control of parts of Beirut. In the following days the government reversed its decisions and granted the Hezbollah-led opposition the desired veto power.
A wave of popular uprisings in early 2011, known as the Arab Spring left Hezbollah in a difficult position. After applauding revolutionary movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, the group found its interests threatened by a similar movement against its key ally, Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad. As protests spread throughout Syria and the civilian death toll mounted, Nasrallah spoke out in support of Assad, echoing Assad’s denunciations of the Syrian opposition as being agents of a foreign conspiracy. The conflict soon escalated into a full-blown civil war.
Since 2012, Hezbollah has helped the Syrian government during the Syrian civil war in its fight against the Syrian opposition, which Hezbollah has described as a Zionist plot and a “Wahhabi-Zionist conspiracy” to destroy its alliance with Assad. It had deployed its militia in both Syria and Iraq. Nasrallah publicly confirmed Hezbollah’s involvement and vowed to fight until the rebels had been defeated.
On May 6, 2018, Lebanon held its first legislative election since 2009. Hezbollah got a politically dominant position in the government for the first time. Top-level positions in the parliament nonetheless remained the same, including Hariri as prime minister.
Hezbollah has been described as a “state within a state”, and its military strength has grown significantly with its military wing that is now considered more powerful than the Lebanese Army. The organization has seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite TV station, social services and large-scale military deployment of fighters beyond Lebanon’s borders, Hezbollah receives military training, weapons, and financial support from Iran, and political support from Syria.