By ABBY GROSS
For many people in the Middle East, the summer of 2006 will be remembered as a time of fear, when homes were destroyed and families forced out of their villages.
The war began in July when fighters from a political organization based in Lebanon called Hezbollah entered Israel. They killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two. By doing so Hezbollah believed it could eventually make a trade with Israel, as has happened before, offering the return of the Israeli prisoners in exchange for the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails for various crimes.
Hezbollah is a group of militant Islamic Shiite organizations based in Lebanon, but it does not control the Lebanese government. It has armed fighters, social programs serving people’s basic needs, and it is a political party.
The group is called a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and four other countries because it has carried out many attacks against foreign soldiers occupying Lebanon and Western targets.
In Lebanon and in Muslim countries it is seen as a national resistance organization that fought against Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. When Hezbollah captured the Israeli soldiers in July, the Israeli government bombed Lebanon in an attempt to get the soldiers back and disarm Hezbollah. Many innocent Lebanese people were caught, unfortunately, in a war they had no part in.
For weeks, the fighting continued, rockets killing and injuring both soldiers and civilians (people who are not in the military) in Lebanon and in northern Israel. On August 12, the UN helped Israel and Hezbollah agree to stop fighting. Across the world, opinions differ over who won this 34-day war.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 1,300 Lebanese civilians killed, one-third of them children
• 154 Israelis killed, mostly soldiers
• Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets at Israel
• Israel dropped 170,000 bombs on Lebanon
GENERATIONS OF VIOLENCE
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN Israel and its neighbors has rarely been peaceful. When Israel was created, it provided a home for Jews displaced after World War II. It also took away the homes of the Muslim natives who were living in the area.
In the last 60 years, Israel has been engaged in war with a number of Arab states, and has become a strong military power, primarily due to U.S. aid. Over time, the people of Israel, Palestine, and surrounding countries have become used to life under the threat of attack.
This war in Lebanon was controversial because Israel killed so many Lebanese civilians. Israel argues that civilians were killed because Hezbollah’s fighters and weapons were buried in suburbs, under regular neighborhoods and towns, so when Israel attacked Hezbollah, the Lebanese people living in these areas had to leave, or face violence.
While many criticize Hezbollah for putting Lebanese people in danger, others criticize Israel for the immense damage it caused.