July 12, 2006: Israel launches invasion and destruction of Lebanon
On this day in 2006, Israel launched a devastating 33-day invasion of Lebanon. This was triggered when Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, in an attempt to secure the release of prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel used this incident as a pre-text to launch a pre-planned, aggressive invasion of Lebanon, deploying over 7,000 bombs in airstrikes over a period of 33 days. This assault killed an estimated 1,200 Lebanese civilians (one third of them children), injuring over 4,399, and displacing 1 million civilians from their homes. Israel also implemented a naval blockade of the entire Lebanese coast, creating a hostile living environment for many Lebanese civilians. Israel damaged tens of thousands of homes within the cities of Srifa, Siddiquine, Yatar, Zebqine, Aita Al-Sha’ab, Bint Jbeil and Taibe.
A report by Human Rights Watch criticized Israel for the high death toll of Lebanese civilians, noting “Israel's frequent failure to abide by a fundamental obligation of the laws of war: the duty to distinguish between military targets, which can be legitimately attacked, and civilians, who are not subject to attack. This was compounded by Israel's failure to take adequate safeguards to prevent civilian casualties.”
On August 11, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops, which was agreed to by the parties and went into effect a few days later. Up to 15,000 UN peacekeepers remained in the area.
Despite the scale of the devastation for the Lebanese people, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Israel’s invasion, claiming that Israel had a right to “defend itself” and describing its actions as “measured.” Instead of criticizing Israel’s human rights violations, Canada’s main priority during this time was to evacuate Canadian-Lebanese civilians. With “Operation LION,” Canada deployed seven ships to evacuate over 50,000 Canadians from Lebanon.