Last updated: 12 July, 2011

Quiet holds five years after Israel-Hezbollah war

The fifth anniversary of Israel’s war in Lebanon passed largely unmarked in the Jewish state on Tuesday, with no official events planned and the border between the neighbours mostly quiet.

The conflict that began on July 12, 2006, ending 34 days later with the deaths of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, has faded into the background in Israeli public life.

Newspapers devoted little coverage to the anniversary, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak was not scheduled to attend any events marking the war.

The conflict began when Israel retaliated for a cross-border raid in which Lebanese militia Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three, and quickly spiralled into a full-fledged confrontation.

Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into northern Israel and the Jewish state carried out devastating strikes across Lebanon.

Israeli public radio played excerpts of its broadcasts from the war, but most of the media coverage of the anniversary simply noted how quiet the border between the two neighbours remains, five years on.

There have been clashes, including an incident last August that flared after Israeli troops began cutting down trees in an area claimed by Lebanon.

The resulting fighting killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist as well as a senior Israeli officer, but tensions subsided and the calm returned.

More recently, Israeli troops opened fire as protesters attempted to storm the border on May 15, as they marked the anniversary of Israel’s creation, which the Palestinians mourn as a “Nakba,” or “catastrophe.”

At least six protesters on the Lebanese side were killed, prompting Beirut to submit a complaint to the United Nations over Israel’s response.

But the incident did not significantly raise tensions, and when protesters sought to participate in a similar protest weeks later, the Lebanese army banned all demonstrations in the border area.

While Israel has welcomed the quiet that followed the war, Israeli commentators still disagree over whether the conflict ultimately strengthened Hezbollah.

“For the IDF, there are two ways to evaluate the five years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War,” wrote Yaakov Katz in The Jerusalem Post.

“On the one hand, they have been very quiet, 10 rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Israel, but not a single one by Hezbollah,” Katz wrote.

“On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore Hezbollah’s massive and unprecedented military build-up, amounting to around 50,000 missiles and rockets.

“As the upheaval in the Middle East continues and the years pass quietly for Israel, the 2006 war’s impact on the strategic balance in the region fades and becomes just another point in history,” he wrote.

“For Israel, it was a wakeup call and helped it to realise that the war of the future is usually nothing like the war of the past. That lesson needs to be remembered.”