Note: On a business trip to Moscow for a conference with my publishers, I stopped in Paris for four days for business, research and sightseeing. During that time, one of my French friends in their Foreign Office gave me a copy of an official report and summary of the causes, actions and losses of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006. This document runs to over three hundred pages and is complete with charts, graphs and many photographs. Here is a translation and condensation of that report for your interest. Brian Harring
Both the State of Israel and the United States viewed Syria as a potentially dangerous enemy. Joint intelligence indicated that Syria was a strong supporter of the Hezbollah Shiite paramilitary group. Israel had planned a punitive military operation into Lebanon both to clip Hezbollah’s wings and send a strong message to Syria to cease and desist supplying arms and money to the anti-Israel group. Because of its involvement in Iraq, the United States indicated it would be unable to supply any ground troops but would certainly supply any kind of weapon, to include bombs, cluster bombs and ammunition for this projected operation. A casus belli was created by the Israeli Mossad’s assassination of Rafik Haarri, a popular Lebanese politician and subsequent disinformation promulgated and instigated by both Israel and the United States blamed Syria for the killing.
The IDF was being supplied faulty and misleading intelligence information, apparently originating from Russian sources, that gave misinformation about Hezbollah positions and strengths and therefore the initial planning was badly flawed.
In full concert with the American president, the IDF launched its brutal and murderous attack on July 12, 2006 and continued unabated until the Hexbollah inflicted so many serious casualties on the Israeli forces and also on the civilian population of Israel, that their government frantically demanded that the White House force a cease fire through the United Nations. This was done for Israel on August 14, 2007 and the last act of this murderous and unprovoked assault was when Israel removed their naval blockade of Lebanese ports.
The contrived incident that launched the Israeli attack was an alleged attack by Hezbollah into Israeli territory where they were alleged to have ‘kidnapped” two Israeli soldiers and subsequently launched a rocket attack to cover their retreat.
The conflict killed over six thousand people, most of whom were Lebanese, severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure, displaced 700,000-915,000 Lebanese, and 300,000-500,000 Israelis, and disrupted normal life across all of Lebanon and northern Israel. Even after the ceasefire, much of Southern Lebanon remained uninhabitable due to unexploded cluster bombs. As of 1 December 2006, an estimated 200,000 Lebanese remained internally displaced or refugees
During the campaign Israel’s Air Force flew more than 12,000 combat missions, its Navy fired 2,500 shells, and its Army fired over 100,000 shells. Large parts of the Lebanese civilian infrastructure were destroyed, including 400 miles of roads, 73 bridges, and 31 other targets such as Beirut International Airport, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, 25 fuel stations, 900 commercial structures, up to 350 schools and two hospitals, and 15,000 homes. Some 130,000 more homes were damaged.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered commanders to prepare civil defense plans. One million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters or security rooms, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating the north and relocating to other areas of the country.
On 26 July 2006 Israeli forces attacked and destroyed an UN observer post. Described as a nondeliberate attack by Israel, the post was shelled for hours before being bombed. UN forces made repeated calls to alert Israeli forces of the danger to the UN observers, all four of whom were killed. Rescuers were shelled as they attempted to reach the post. According to an e-mail sent earlier by one of the UN observers killed in the attack, there had been numerous occasions on a daily basis where the post had come under fire from both Israeli artillery and bombing. The UN observer reportedly wrote that previous Israeli bombing near the post had not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to “tactical necessity,” military jargon which retired Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie later interpreted as indicating that Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets extremely close to the post.
On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed eighteen soldiers. Israel claimed, after this event, that it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.
On 28 July 2006 Israeli paratroopers killed 5 of Hezbollah’s commando elite in Bint Jbeil. In total, the IDF claimed that 80 fighters were killed in the battles at Bint Jbeil. Hezbollah sources, coupled with International Red Cross figures place the Hezbollah total at 7 dead and 129 non-combattant Lebanese civilian deaths.
On 30 July 2006 Israeli airstrikes hit an apartment building in Qana, killing at least 65 civilians, of which 28 were children, with 25 more missing. The airstrike was widely condemned.
On 31 July 2006 the Israeli military and Hezbollah forces engaged Hezbollah in the Battle of Ayta ash-Shab.
On 1 August 2006 Israeli commandos launched Operation Sharp and Smooth and landed in Baalbek and captured five civilians including one bearing the same name as Hezbollah’s leader, “Hassan Nasrallah”. All of the civilians were released after the ceasefire. Troops landed near Dar al-Himkeh hospital west of Baalbeck as part of a widescale operation in the area.
On 4 August 2006 the IAF attacked a building in the area of al-Qaa around 10 kilometers (six miles) from Hermel in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Sixty two farm workers, mostly Syrian and Lebanese Kurds, were killed during the airstrike.
On 5 August 2006 Israeli commandos carried out a nighttime raid in Tyre, blowing up a water treatment plant, a small clinic and killing 187 civilians before withdrawing.
On 7 August 2006 the IAF attacked the Shiyyah suburb in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, destroying three apartment buildings in the suburb, killing at least 120 people.
On 11 August 2006 the IAF attacked a convoy of approximately 750 vehicles containing Lebanese police, army, civilians, and one Associated Press journalist, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 39.
On 12 August 2006 the IDF established its hold in South Lebanon. Over the weekend Israeli forces in southern Lebanon nearly tripled in size. and were ordered to advance towards the Litani River.
On 14 August 2006 the Israeli Air Force reported that they had killed the head of Hezbollah’s Special Forces, whom they identified as Sajed Dewayer,but this claim was never proven.. 80 minutes before the cessation of hostilities, the IDF targeted a Palestinian faction in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, killing a UNRWA staff member. Sixty two refugees had been killed in an attack on this camp six days prior to the incident.
During the campaign Hezbollah fired between 3,970 and 4,228 rockets. About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in) Katyusha artillery rockets, which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 lb) and had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi). An estimated 23% of these rockets hit built-up areas, primarily civilian in nature.
Cities hit included Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an, Karmiel, and Maalot, and dozens of Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages, as well as the northern West Bank. Hezbollah also engaged in guerrilla warfare with the IDF, attacking from well-fortified positions. These attacks by small, well-armed units caused serious problems for the IDF, especially through the use hundreds of sophisticated Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Hezbollah destroyed 38 Israeli Merkava main battle tanks and damaged 82. Fifteen tanks were destroyed by anti-tank mines. Hezbollah caused an additional 65 casualties using ATGMs to collapse buildings onto Israeli troops sheltering inside.
After the initial Israeli response, Hezbollah declared an all-out military alert. Hezbollah was estimated to have 13,000 missiles at the beginning of the conflict. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Hezbollah as a trained, skilled, well-organized, and highly motivated infantry that was equipped with the cream of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia, and China. Lebanese satellite TV station Al-Manar reported that the attacks had included a Fajr-3 and a Ra’ad 1, both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended the attacks, saying that Hezbollah had “started to act calmly, we focused on Israel[i] military bases and we didn’t attack any settlement, however, since the first day, the enemy attacked Lebanese towns and murdered civilians — Hezbollah militants had destroyed military bases, while the Israelis killed civilians and targeted Lebanon’s infrastructure.” Hezbollah apologized for shedding Muslim blood, and called on the Arabs of the Israeli city of Haifa to flee.
On 13 July 2006 in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks in which 43 civilians were killed, Hezbollah launched rockets at Haifa for the first time, hitting a cable car station along with a few other buildings
On 14 July 2006 Hezbollah attacked the INS Hanit, an Israeli Sa’ar 5-class missile boat enforcing the naval blockade, with a what was believed to be a radar guided C-802 anti-ship missile. 24 sailors were killed and the warship was severely damaged and towed back to port.
On 17 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a railroad repair depot, killing twenty-two workers. Hezbollah claimed that this attack was aimed at a large Israeli fuel storage plant adjacent to the railway facility. Haifa is home to many strategically valuable facilities such as shipyards and oil refineries.
On 18 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a hospital in Safed in northern Galilee, wounding twenty three.
On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed forty one soldiers, and destroyed 12 IDF vehicles and destroyed three armored vehicles and seriously damaged eight more. Israel claimed it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.
On 3 August 2006 Nasrallah warned Israel against hitting Beirut and promised retaliation against Tel Aviv in this case. He also stated that Hezbollah would stop its rocket campaign if Israel ceased aerial and artillery strikes of Lebanese towns and villages.
On 4 August 2006 Israel targeted the southern outskirts of Beirut, and later in the day, Hezbollah launched rockets at the Hadera region.
On 9 August 2006 twenty three Israeli soldiers were killed when the building they were taking cover in was struck by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile and collapsed.
On 12 August 2006 24 Israeli soldiers were killed; the worst Israeli loss in a single day. Out of those 24, five soldiers were killed when Hezbollah shot down an Israeli helicopter, a first for the militia. Hezbollah claimed the helicopter had been attacked with a Wa’ad missile.
One of the most controversial aspects of the conflict has been the high number of civilian deaths. The actual proportion of civilian deaths and the responsibility of it is hotly disputed.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch blamed Israel for systematically failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, which may constitute a war crime, and accused Hezbollah of committing war crimes by the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians by firing rockets into populated areas
On 24 July 2006, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Israel’s response violated international humanitarian law, but also criticized Hezbollah for knowingly putting civilians in harm’s way by “cowardly blending…among women and children”.During the war, Israeli jets distributed leaflets calling on civilian residents to evacuate or move north.
In response to some of this criticism, Israel has stated that it did, wherever possible, attempt to distinguish between protected persons and combatants, but that due to Hezbollah militants being in civilian clothing (thus committing the war crime of perfidy this was not always possible.
Direct attacks on civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initially estimated about 35,000 homes and businesses in Lebanon were destroyed by Israel in the conflict, while a quarter of the country’s road bridges or overpasses were damaged. Jean Fabre, a UNDP spokesman, estimated that overall economic losses for Lebanon from the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah totaled “at least $15 billion, if not more.”] Before andthroughout the war, Hezbollah launched over 4000 unguided rockets against Israeli population centers, seeking to terrorize the Israeli population. This was in direct response to Israel’s attack on residental sections and the deliberate targeting of civilians
Amnesty International published a report stating that “the deliberate widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population,” and called for an international investigation of violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict.
Israel defended itself from such allegations on the grounds that Hezbollah’s use of roads and bridges for military purposes made them legitimate targets. However, Amnesty International stated that “the military advantage anticipated from destroying [civilian infrastructure] must be measured against the likely effect on civilians.”
Human Rights Watch strongly criticized Israel for using cluster bombs too close to civilians because of their inaccuracy and unreliability, suggesting that they may have gone as far as deliberately targeting civilian areas with such munitions. Hezbollah was also criticized by Human Rights Watch for filling its rockets with ball bearings, which “suggests a desire to maximize harm to civilians”; the U.N has criticised Israel for its use of cluster munitions and disproportionate attacks.
Amnesty International stated that the IDF used white phosphorus shells in Lebanon. Israel later admitted to the use of white phosphorus, but stated that it only used the incendiary against militants. However, several foreign media outlets reported observing and photographing “a large number” of Lebanese civilians with burns characteristic of white phosphorus attacks during the conflict.
Hezbollah casualty figures are difficult to ascertain, with claims and estimates by different groups and individuals ranging from 43 to 1,000. Hezbollah’s leadership claims that 43 of their fighters were killed in the conflict, while Israel estimated that its forces had killed 600 Hezbollah fighters. In addition, Israel claimed to have the names of 532 dead Hezbollah fighters but when challenged by Hezbollah to release the list, the Israelis dropped the issue. A UN official estimated that 50 Hezbollah fighters had been killed, and Lebanese government officials estimated that up to 49 had been killed.
The Lebanese civilian death toll is difficult to pinpoint as most published figures do not distinguish between civilians and militants, including those released by the Lebanese government. In addition, Hezbollah fighters can be difficult to identify as many do not wear military uniforms. However, it has been widely reported that the majority of the Lebanese killed were civilians, and UNICEF estimated that 30% of those killed were children under the age of 13
The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded US/Israeli cluster bombs. According to the National Demining Office, 297 people have been killed and 867 wounded in such blasts.
Official Israeli figures for the Israel Defense Forces troops killed range from 116 to 120. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives two different figures – 117 and 119 – the latter of which contains two IDF fatalities that occurred after the ceasefire went into effect.In September 2006, two local Israeli news papers released insider information ensuring that the israeli military death toll might climbed to around 540 soldiers. Israel refuses any outside agency access to its lists of the dead and wounded but an examination of all the accurate information available as of January 1, 2007 indicates that Israeli Defense Forces lost a total of 2300 killed with 600 of these dying in militatry hospital facilities subsequent to the conclusion of the fighting and an additional 700 very seriously wounded.
Hezbollah rockets killed 43 Israeli civilians during the conflict, including four who died of heart attacks during rocket attacks. In addition, 4,262 civilians were injured – 33 seriously, 68 moderately, 1,388 lightly, and 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety
Last month, (March, 2007) the Israeli comptroller had planned to release an interim report that was expected to accuse the army and Olmert of leaving Israeli civilians virtually defenseless during last summer’s Lebanon war, in which Hezbollah guerrillas fired a barrage of rockets and missiles at northern Israel.