This July marks six years since the start of the Second Lebanon War — and four years since Israel recovered the bodies of Sergeants First Class Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were abducted at the start of the war.
The 34-day war began on the morning of July 12, 2006, when the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah fired multiple barrages of rockets into northern Israel. At the same time, Hezbollah fighters crossed Israel’s northern border and attacked two IDF vehicles on a routine patrol.
Three IDF soldiers were killed in the initial attack. Two others — Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — were wounded, captured and taken into Lebanon.
By the end of the fighting, Hezbollah had fired about 4,000 rockets into northern Israel. A total of 119 IDF soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians were killed during the war.
A Traumatic Exchange
For the duration of the war and the two following years, Hezbollah refused to provide any information about the fate of the two kidnapped soldiers.
On July 16, 2008, the government of Israel agreed to pay a heavy price in exchange for the return of Goldwasser and Regev — dead or alive. As part of the deal, Israel freed five Lebanese terrorists, including convicted murderer Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 shot an Israeli man and killed his young daughter by smashing her head against a rock.
Until the last possible moment of the exchange, Hezbollah refused to say what happened to Goldwasser and Regev. When a convoy arrived to the Israeli border, a Hezbollah representative, Wafiq Safa, announced that the soldiers’ fate would “now be revealed” and gestured toward two black coffins.
The moment was broadcast live around the world. Until the soldiers’ families saw the coffins on television, they maintained a sliver of hope that the men might be alive.
Meanwhile, Samir Kuntar received a hero’s welcome in Lebanon, and the party for his return was broadcast live throughout the Arab world.
It took several hours for Israeli authorities to positively identify the remains. A former IDF chief rabbi, Yisrael Weiss, was present during the transfer of the dead Israelis soldiers. It was his job to help confirm the identities of the bodies. At the time, he said:
“The verification process yesterday was very slow, because, if we thought the enemy was cruel to the living and the dead, we were surprised, when we opened the caskets, to discover just how cruel. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Six years after the war ended, Hezbollah has rearmed, thanks to Iranian and Syrian weapons shipments.
Hezbollah’s rearmament happened despite the presence of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon — and is a direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war six years ago. Today, Hezbollah has more than three times as many rockets as it did before the summer 2006 war.