The Israel-Lebanon Conflict (1978-Present)
The Israel-Lebanon Conflict—(1978-Present): As with many of the conflicts in the Middle East, the ongoing war along the Israeli-Lebanese border is a part of the longer and larger Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1948, five Arab nations, including Lebanon, invaded Israel in a vain attempt to prevent the birth of the Jewish nation on land that the Arabs felt belonged to them. The Arabs called the land occupied by the Israelis “Palestine” and those Arabs living there as “Palestinians.” As a result of this and subsequent outbreaks of war, thousands of Palestinians fled to neighboring Arab countries. Several Palestinian guerrilla armies formed to fight a guerrilla/terrorist war against Israel. Their attacks on Israeli targets prompted retaliation on the host nations of Jordan and Lebanon. Palestinian power became so great in Jordan, that a civil war was fought in 1970, resulting in the expulsion of Palestinian forces from that nation. At this point, the Palestinian resistance moved to Lebanon, a small nation located on Israel’s northern border.
The newly resettled Palestinian forces, led by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), had two important effects on Lebanon. First, their ongoing cross-border raiding brought violent responses from Israel. These retaliatory raids caused death and destruction for the local inhabitants of South Lebanon. Secondly, the large influx of mostly Muslim Palestinians upset the population balance between Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims. These two religious groups fought a civil war in the 1950’s, and an uneasy peace had existed since. By 1975, tensions between the Lebanese Christians on one side and the Lebanese Muslims and the PLO on the other side, erupted into a bloody civil war. The Lebanese Army and government dissolved as rival Christian and Muslim militias battled for control of their nation. This conflict caused Lebanon’s only two neighbors to intervene in its affairs. Soon after the war’s beginning, Syria sent a 40,000 man-strong “peace-keeping” force into Eastern Lebanon. Though officially a force for peace, the Syrians soon took the side of the Muslims and PLO and actively battled the Lebanese Christian forces. Israel began aiding the anti-Muslim forces with weapons and other assistance.
As the Lebanese Civil War raged on, the PLO continued attacks on northern Israel. By 1978, Israel decided to invade Southern Lebanon, which was now almost fully controlled by the PLO.
Israeli Invasions and Incursions into Lebanon
–Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (1978)–25,000 Israeli troops invaded southern Lebanon on March 14, 1978 in a campaign to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) out. This attack was in response to PLO raids into northern Israel from their bases in southern Lebanon.
After the 1970 Jordanian Civil War, in which the PLO was driven out of Jordan, southern Lebanon came under Palestinian control, with Yasser Arafat’s forces creating a virtual ‘state-within-a-state.” Their control became so dominant, that southern Lebanon was nicknamed “Fatahland,” after al-Fatah, the name of Arafat’s main PLO faction.
This Israeli military offensive forced an estimated 285,000 people to become refugees, with over 6,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged. Between 1,100 and 2,000 Lebanese civilians were killed. Twenty Israeli soldiers died, and an unknown number of Palestinian fighters. The PLO forces retreated ahead of the Israelis and continued their attacks on Israel.
Tactically, the Israeli invasion was unsuccessful. Their target, PLO military units, left the area. Israel had failed to prevent the PLO retreat.
As the Israelis withdrew in June, 1978, they turned control of the occupied territory over to the South Lebanon Army (SLA), led by Major Saad Haddad, a renegade Lebanese Army officer who set up his own militia. The SLA served as Israel’s proxy in south Lebanon, often engaging the PLO in combat.
An estimated 285,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians became refugees due to Operation Litani. Estimates of civilian deaths in Lebanan range from 1,100 to 2,000. 20 Israelis soldiers were were killed. The PLO suffered an unknown number of casualties.
1981–In response to PLO rocket attacks, Israeli forces began heavy bombing of PLO targets in Lebanon. The United States negotiated a cease-fire.
1982– Operation Peace in Galilee (June 6, Israel began its 1982 offensive into Lebanon in response to two specific terrorist acts; the bombing of a bus in northern Israel, and the assassination attempt on the life of Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov. Calling this invasion “Operation Peace in Galilee,” (Galilee is the biblical name for northern Israel), Israel invaded Lebanon up to the outskirts of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
While eventually allowing the PLO to leave Lebanon, Israeli forces remained in control of south Lebanon near the border until 2000, when the troops were withdrawn in order to end the ongoing guerrilla war with the Shiite Lebanese militia called Hezbollah.
1993–Israeli Forces launched Operation Accountability (July 25-July 31, 1993), a week-long military campaign directed at Hezbollah ( this conflict is called The Seven-Day War by the Lebanese).
In June, 1993, Hezbollah launched rockets against a settlement in northern Israel, and then in July, 1993, both Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) launched attacks which killed five Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. Israel decided to respond to these attacks by making southern Lebanon an inhospitable environment for Hezbollah.
During Operation Accountability, Israeli forces destroyed or damaged thousands of houses and buildings, causing some 300,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians from southern Lebanon to migrate towards Beirut and other areas outside of the combat zone. Israeli forces also targeted Lebanese infrastructure, (power stations, bridges, and roadways. This is a tactic that would be repeated in future Israeli attacks on Hezbollah and Lebanon. Hezbollah responded with more rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets.
At least 118 Lebanese civilians and two Israeli civilians died during this operation.
1996–Operation Grapes of Wrath (April 11-April 27, 1996) –Israel’s massive air and artillery attack on Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon which attempted to end shelling of northern Israel by the Iranian and Syrian-backed Lebanese Islamic militia. Israel forces launched 1,100 air raids and fired nearly 25,132 shells at Hezbollah targets during the sixteen-day offensive. A United Nations camp at Qana, Lebanon, was hit by Israeli shelling, killing 118 Lebanese civilians who sought shelter there. Nearly 640 Hezbollah rockets hit northern Israel in this time period, particularly the often-hit settlement of Kiryat Shemona. Israel’s ally and proxy force, the South Lebanon Army (a mixed Christian and Shiite Muslim militia under the command of renegade Lebanese Major Saad Haddad), also engaged in ground fighting with Hezbollah.
At least 350 civilians were wounded in Lebanon , and 62 Israeli civilians were wounded in Israel.
2006–In response to the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the capture of two others in July, 2006 Israel found itself immersed in yet another Lebanese war . See also Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah War of 2006
2013–A shooting incident on the Israel-Lebanon border resulted in the death of an Israeli soldier. The shots were fired by Lebanese Army soldiers. Lebanon claimed the shooting was in response to an incursion by Israeli troops into Lebanon.
Wars and Conflicts Related to the Israel-Lebanon Conflict:
PREDECESSOR CONFLICTS: (Related conflicts that occurred before)
1948 Arab-Israeli War (1948-1949)Suez/Sinai War (1956)
1967 Arab-Israeli War (1967)
War of Attrition (1968-1970)
1973 Arab-Israeli War (1973)
Jordanian Civil War (1970)
CONCURRENT CONFLICTS: (Related conflicts occurring at the same time)
Israel-Palestinian Conflict (1964-Present)Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991)
Israel-Lebanon Conflict (1978-Present)
Syrian Intervention in Lebanon (1975-Present)
U.S. Intervention in Lebanon (1982-1984)
SUCCESSOR CONFLICTS: (Related conflicts that occur later)