What is behind Israel’s attacks on Lebanon?CAIRO ― Using missiles, artillery, fighter jets and tanks, Israel has been attacking Lebanon and the Gaza strip in the Palestinian territories. Lebanese and Palestinian armed groups are countering the offensive with rockets and missiles. The conflict began late last month, with more than 250 killed in Lebanon as of late July. What has caused the conflict and what can be expected to happen?
1. Why is Israel attacking Lebanon and the Palestinian autonomous territories?
On June 25, an armed Palestinian group called the Popular Resistance Committee attacked an Israeli military guardpost in the Gaza strip, killing two soldiers and capturing another. On July 12, Hezbollah, the largest militant group in Lebanon, crossed the Israeli border, ambushed a military patrol and captured two soldiers. The group also killed eight Israeli soldiers who were chasing the raiders.
Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon demanded that 2,000 Arab prisoners held in Israeli prisons be exchanged for the hostages, but Israel rejected those demands. Instead, the Israeli military began a massive retaliation. This is the reason on the surface, but the actual reason at the root of the conflict is that Islamic forces in the Middle East refuse to accept the existence of Israel.
2. Would the situation be resolved easily if the armed groups released the hostages?
The government of Lebanon and the autonomous government of Palestine have both urged the armed groups to release the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. But the Popular Resistance Committee and Hezbollah refused to accept the demand. They said the kidnappings were acts of resistance to Israel’s forcible occupation of some territories in Lebanon and Palestine.
3. Hasn’t the international community said Israel is using too much force?
Israel argues that it is exercising its sovereign right to defend itself. It said it needs to retaliate against the forces that attacked its territory, military installations and soldiers. Israel said it removed its troops from the Gaza strip in August last year and peace negotiations were ongoing when the armed groups attacked the Israeli military, and such actions amount to a war, threatening Israel’s security. Israel, surrounded by Arab countries, has reacted strongly to all attacks, even if they are small, in order to make clear its determination to defend its national security at all costs.
4. The governments of Lebanon and Palestine reportedly wanted a ceasefire, so why is the conflict continuing?
The government of Lebanon and the autonomous government of Palestine actually have no ability to control the armed groups. Due to the longtime occupations and wars in the region, the Gaza strip and the southern part of Lebanon are actually ruled by the armed groups. Hezbollah controls the southern part of Lebanon and its armed forces are far stronger than Lebanon’s military. In the Lebanese cabinet and legislature, Hezbollah members are influential.
5. Will Syria and Iran intervene in the conflict?
That is what the international community is most worried about. Syria and Iran are the hardliners of the Middle East, and they have been in confrontation with Israel for a long time. Israel and the United States claim that Iran and Syria have indirect ― and direct ― responsibility for this situation. Hezbollah receives support from Iran and Syria. The two countries have warned that if a war takes place in Lebanon or if Israel attacks them, they will launch their own strong retaliation. Syria is particularly sensitive about the matter. Khalid Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, an armed group in Palestine, is living in exile in Syria, so it is thought Israel might choose to attack it first.
6. Shouldn’t the international community intervene in the conflict?
Since 1948, four wars have taken place in the Middle East, and the international community has been making efforts to prevent a fifth. The United Nations and the European Union have proposed sending negotiators and peacekeepers to Lebanon. But the United States and Israel are determined to disarm what they call the “terrorist groups” this time. On July 13, a UN Security Council resolution was voted on to ask Israel to stop its strikes on the Gaza strip, but the United States vetoed it. Washington will likely veto another UN resolution on Israel’s conduct in Lebanon.
7. What would bring a resolution to the conflict?
If the armed groups of Lebanon and Palestine release the captive Israeli soldiers, Israel is likely to stop its attacks. The international community could step in and send peacekeepers to the region. But these measures would only solve the present situation. For a lasting resolution, Israel could comply with the UN Security Council resolution of 1967 that called for it to leave all occupied territories. A separate Palestinian state would probably need to be established and the armed groups disbanded for there to be any possibility of the two sides coexisting peacefully.
Wars in the Middle East rooted in Palestine
CAIRO― Tensions reached a new peak in the Middle East when Israel attacked the Gaza strip and Lebanon. That conflict, however, is only the tip of an iceberg. For the past 58 years, Israel and Islamic countries in the region have confronted each other repeatedly.
The foundation of Israel in 1948 prompted conflict between it and Arab nations. With the Western world’s backing, Israel built its country on Palestinian soil, thus planting the seeds of war.
Wars took place in 1948, 1952, 1967 and 1973 and Arab nations were defeated in each. After the 1967 war, Israel successfully occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza strip, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Golan Plateau in Syria.
Having lost their homeland, Palestinians began armed struggles throughout the occupied territories and from refugee camps in neighboring countries. They often chose terrorism as their means, to fight against the international community’s seeming indifference and the support of Israel by the United States. The armed groups were fighting Israel, which refused to accept the UN Security Council resolution of 1967, which stated that Israel should leave its occupied territories. Israel, meanwhile, pushed on with expansion of its settlements in the occupied territories, citing defense of its security.
The territorial dispute in Palestine has evolved into ethnic, religious and political hatred. Without the conflict, anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East would probably not be so strong.
by Seo Jeong-min