Israel Marking Two Decades since Withdrawal from Lebanon
Twenty years on, Israel is noting its May 24, 2000, departure from Lebanon with interviews and stories about the jubilant soldiers whose faces were pasted across front pages the next day – but little else. It is an 18-year period of war and occupation that people usually prefer to forget, starting in June 1982 as a colossal tug of war between a prime minister, Menachem Begin, who wanted the Palestine Liberation Organization and its weapons pushed away from the border, and a defense minister, Ariel Sharon, who had grander visions of a Christian-led state that would be at peace with Israel. Including the five-and-a-half days of fighting that started it all, Israel’s Lebanon experience cost it some 1,200 troops, with most of the casualties in later years being attributed to ambushes and improvised explosive devices. Israel went to war over Lebanon again in the summer of 2006 after one of its patrols was ambushed along the border, with two of the soldiers disappearing. Their bodies were later returned, but only after a month of fighting that cost the Jewish state another 121 troops. The ambush was mounted by Hizbullah, an Iran-backed Shi’ite militia formed in the early 1980s, partly as a result of Israel’s presence in Lebanon.