Revisiting the Start of the Second Lebanon War

The Unbearable Ease of the Kidnapping

Hezbollah released a video of the 2006 kidnapping of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev that launched the second Lebanon war. Has Israel learned the appropriate lessons from the Second Lebanon War?

The video clip released by Hezbollah on Friday, which documents the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser - and when soldiers Shani Turgeman, Eyal Benin, and Wassim Nazal were also killed - gives goose bumps to anyone present on the Lebanese border during that forlorn summer of 2006.

The bend in the road, east of the northern settlement of Zarit, is well known from multiple subsequent visits to the scene of the attack. For the first time, though, that bend is seen from the other side of the border, from a hidden viewpoint in an overgrown wadi, concealing the Hezbollah ambush.

Most importantly, the Hezbollah militants had the camera rolling from the moment the border was breached, documenting every stage of the incident - up until the point that Goldwasser and Regev were removed from their IDF hummer, either dead or critically injured.

Apparently there are details regarding the attack that Hezbollah prefers to keep to itself. Whether or not the two soldiers were alive as they were kidnapped and taken to Lebanon is at the top of the list.

Why did Hezbollah decide to release the video now? Roughly two weeks after the sixth anniversary of the start of the Second Lebanon War, with the world focus on the Olympic Games?

The explanation has much to do with the internal situation in Lebanon, where calls to disarm Hezbollah have been renewed as of late.

Yesterday morning, a Lebanese website known for its disdain toward Hezbollah quoted a senior official from within the anti-Syria camp, who called the coming elections an "operation to displace Hezbollah's sovereignty from Lebanon."

Lebanese parliamentary elections are expected to be held in June 2013, and the Shi'ite organization's situation is a rather uncomfortable one. The video clip is a reminder of Hezbollah's might, as the true military defender of the Lebanese people.

"We are the only ones who can stand against the Israeli enemy," Hezbollah is saying to the Lebanese people, who are currently focusing their attention on the civil war in Syria.

On Friday night, clashes took place in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, between militants supporting Assad and militants supporting the opposition. Twelve people were injured.

Equally interesting is the method Hezbollah chose to release the clip. The video was released through the relatively new television channel al-Midian, founded by the analyst Rasan Ben Gado, former Al Jazeera office chief in Lebanon, who has close ties to Hezbollah. Ben Gado quit Al Jazeera over the channel's anti-Syria policy, and founded - apparently with the help of Hezbollah - al-Midian. The release of the video bolsters the new channel, not just Hezbollah.

A few more interesting insights arise from viewing the video:

1. The unbearable ease of the kidnapping - contrary to earlier estimations, the video reveals that Hezbollah forces crossed the border in broad daylight, a minute or two (unless the video was edited here ) before opening fire on the IDF hummers.

Hezbollah forces apparently watched the eastward movement of the patrol on the winding road and timed their attack. Hezbollah knew that it was a "dead area" in terms of visibility for IDF observation posts. Other posts and observation points were attacked during the kidnapping, making it difficult for IDF forces to respond.

2. The patrol didn't return fire: from the video clip, it was a completely one-sided fight. The ambush took the soldiers in both hummers by surprise. Some were killed on the spot by antitank missiles before they could respond. Two soldiers, including the driver of one of the hummers, escaped, wounded, and hid in the bushes. The video clip does not show the arrival of other IDF forces. The first additional IDF forces arrived at 9:45 A.M., roughly 40 minutes after the incident began.

3. The negligence was all-encompassing. Days before the end of the war, IDF forces conducted a search of the area north of the border fence, and found a Hezbollah bunker on a hill overlooking the scene of the kidnapping (apparently very close to the point where the clip was filmed ). Hezbollah forces had managed to carry out extensive preparations for the operation under Israel's nose.

IDF activity on the Lebanese border between 2000 and 2006 was low on the list of priorities, because of budget problems, and lack of availability of equipment and manpower. Israel also gave up demonstrating sovereignty, and other aggressive military activities in the area, in efforts not to start a conflict with Hezbollah at a time when Palestinian terror was running rampant within the West Bank. The result: Hezbollah took the initiative, and its efforts led to war.

There is a hidden message here for present times. The balance of power is clear: the IDF is immeasurably stronger than Hezbollah. Even though Israel did not win the Second Lebanon War, the blow dealt to the Shi'ite group has proven strong enough to prevent it from starting a second round, to this day, in spite of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's frequent victory speeches.

It would be a terrible mistake, however, to underestimate Hezbollah's capabilities once again, regardless of whether the decision to act comes from Beirut or Tehran.