Hezbollah's use of Lebanese civilians as human shields: the extensive military infrastructure positioned and hidden in populated areas. From within the Lebanese towns and villages deliberate rocket attacks were directed against civilian targets in Israel.

Issued on: 05/12/2006 Type: Article

Foreword
 

This study analyzes two central concepts of Hezbollah's warfare, demonstrated during the second Lebanon war (July-August 2006). The first is the broad use of the Lebanese civilian population as a living shield; the second, viewing the Israeli civilian population as the primary target for the enormous rocket arsenal Hezbollah built up over a period of years. Both acts are considered war crimes under international law. They express the basic asymmetry between Israel , committed to moral conduct and international law, and a terrorist organization operating in direct contravention of those laws. That asymmetry is characteristic of the warfare waged against the State of Israel (and the entire international community) by Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations and as such is, by and large, a most recent case study of a situation prevailing in other conflict zones in this twenty first century.

The background to specific issues treated in this study was a war, the second Lebanon war, which caught both sides – and the world – by surprise. Israel was forced to deal with a host of both moral and practical problems that this war dramatically brought to the fore. From the very outset the hostilities were born of a mistaken perception. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah thought he could carry out a cross-border abduction and that Israel would respond as it had in the past: with limited military action followed by negotiations for the soldiers' release and a grudging acceptance of Hezbollah's terms for a prisoner swap. Nasrallah has, indeed, publicly admitted that had he known what Israel 's reaction would be, he would not have embarked on that particular course. For Israel signaled Hezbollah that the ground rules had changed, and that it would react differently from the way it had during the six years that followed its withdrawal from south Lebanon (in May 2000). In the heat of battle and throughout the thirty-three days of fierce combat, media attention was focused on the action, and there was little or no time – or patience – to enter into a thorough examination of facts and basic policies. This now needs to be done not only for the purpose of chronicling history in the most accurate and authoritative manner as possible , but also as a guide to similar activities taking place in other theaters of action parallel and subsequent to events in Lebanon.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center , which is part of the Center for Special Studies, 2 took upon itself to bring before the public important aspects of the recent war, sifting, verifying, confirming and compiling information that illustrates Hezbollah's policies and modus operandi. The IDF was forced to deal with a terrorist organization, generously supported by two terrorism-sponsoring states ( Iran and Syria ), which constructed a broad military infrastructure within populated areas in south Lebanon . The organization systematically used local inhabitants as human shields, cynically endangering their lives and well being.

From within that infrastructure Hezbollah indiscriminately directed its massive fire at civilian targets in Israel , intending to cause death and destruction and to spread fear in Israel 's heartland and demoralize Israelis. Nearly four thousand rockets were fired into Israel , in gross violation of the international law. The use of human shields and the targeting of civilian populations are war crimes. However, Hezbollah does not see itself as bound by such laws, unlike Israel which did and does its utmost to avoid harming civilians.

Given the prospect of renewed hostilities, not only with Lebanon but in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, we felt it necessary to provide authentic data previously unavailable to the public. This study is the product of the determination of a small group of people, a devoted team led by military intelligence veteran expert Dr. Reuven Erlich, who were privileged to enjoy the cooperation of every potential source of information in Israel . Every item of information was painstakingly checked and double checked to meet the highest standards of accuracy and veracity that this group has maintained in recent years .

This study is designed to provide all interested persons with reliable information about Hezbollah's conduct. Through its reports, and by using its Website to disseminate information, the Center for Special Studies performs a public service for global audiences, including the Arab and Muslim world. We in the Center for Special Studies are dedicated not only to commemorating the fallen of the Israeli intelligence community and to preserving its heritage but no less to harnessing the accumulated capabilities of our veterans to serve the current needs of truth- seeking audiences. Thus, as we look to the past, we make an effort to disseminate information contributing to the current war on terrorism. I sincerely hope that the reader will find the material of interest and be attentive to the wider context within which this unique study should be considered.

With every good wish,

Efraim Halevy

Center for Special Studies - Chairman

(Former Head of the Israeli Mossad 1998- 2002) 


 

Additional Bulletins