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'Balance of terror' sustains tense calm between Hezbollah and Israel

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The 2006 war

The month-long war in 2006 broke out on July 12 when Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers along the border. Israel responded by launching air attacks against Lebanese infrastructure and Hezbollah targets which quickly escalated into a full-blown conflict.

Hezbollah, which had not sought a war with Israel, had miscalculated Israel’s response to its kidnapping operation. But the Israeli government of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, and the Israeli army, miscalculated the capabilities of their Lebanese enemy.

The war ended inconclusively after a month. Hezbollah celebrated a “divine victory” over Israel, but it came at the cost of yielding the southern border district to the Lebanese Army and a strengthened United Nations peacekeeping force. Since then, Hezbollah has established new lines of defense, recruited and trained thousands of new fighters, devised fresh battle tactics, and augmented its arsenal with guided rockets capable of striking almost any target in Israel.

Israel was humiliated by its poor military performance in 2006 and its deterrence posture was undermined. It has since retrained its army and introduced new weapons systems geared toward the asymmetrical conflict with Hezbollah, including a multitiered antirocket shield.

'Balance of terror'

Should another war break out, the level of destruction on both sides of the border could be unparalleled in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead of being confined to the traditional theater of south Lebanon and northern Israel, the next war will likely encompass the territories of both countries. Yet the “balance of terror” remains inherently unstable and none of the underlying drivers that led to war in 2006 have been resolved.

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