On May 24, 2000, Israel completed the withdrawal of its forces from
southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak pledged during his March 1999 election
campaign to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon by July 2000.
Israelís Involvement in Lebanon
The purpose of Israelís presence in Lebanon has always been to ensure
the security of its northern border. In March 1978, Israel launched
Operation Litani, taking control of southern Lebanon in an effort to curb
cross-border attacks by Palestinian terrorists. Immediately following the
start of Israelís military operations in Lebanon, the U.N. Security
Council passed two resolutions. Resolution 425 called for Israelís
withdrawal from all Lebanese territory and Resolution 426 established the
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a peacekeeping force
that remains in Lebanon today.
In June 1982, after the continued shelling of northern Israel by
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forces based in Lebanon, Israel
launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, eventually driving the PLO out
of the country. Israeli troops completed a phased withdrawal from Lebanon
in June 1985 and created a 9-mile wide security zone in Southern Lebanon
controlled by Israel and its Lebanese allies, the South Lebanon Army (SLA).
Continued tension along the Israeli-Lebanese border led to frequent
clashes between Israeli forces and the Syrian-Iranian backed Hezbollah. In
July 1993, following the killing of seven Israeli soldiers in Southern
Lebanon, Israel launched "Operation Accountability" against
Hezbollah terrorists. Then in April 1996, Israel launched "Operation
Grapes of Wrath," striking at targets in Lebanon to retaliate for
Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel. During the course of its
operations in Lebanon, Israel always maintained that it would terminate
its counterattacks if Hezbollah would cease launching Katyusha rockets
into northern Israel.
Hezbollah is a militant, terrorist organization whose goal is to
destroy Israel and it continues to threaten Israeli and Jewish targets
worldwide. It is financed, armed and trained by Iran and given the green
light to maneuver in Lebanon by Syria. Hezbollah is believed to be
responsible for a number of terrorist incidents in the Middle East,
western Europe and Asia, including two bombings in Buenos Aires Ė the
1993 bombing of the Israeli embassy and the 1994 bombing of the Jewish
Background to Withdrawal
The increase in Israelís casualty count in Lebanon over the past few
years led to growing domestic pressure for an end to Israelís military
presence in Lebanon. Prime Minister Ehud Barak won a sweeping victory in
the May 1999 elections with his pledge to pull Israeli troops out of
Lebanon within the year.
On March 5, 2000, the Israeli cabinet voted unanimously for a full
troop withdrawal from Lebanon by July. The expectation was that such a
withdrawal would be part of an agreement with Syria and Lebanon. However,
after negotiations with Syria broke down and Syrian President Assadís
refusal to continue talks with Israel, such coordination was not possible.
Israel began its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon on May 22, 2000 and
it was quickly completed by May 24 in accordance with U.N. Security
Council Resolution 425. According to Resolution 425, the U.N. will take
action to fill the vacuum that is created following the withdrawal of
Israeli forces, and deploy appropriate armed forces to restore effective
authority in the area.
Israel has reiterated that it remains committed to its goal of
concluding peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon and hopes that following
its withdrawal, peace and security will be restored to both sides of the
international border. Israel also expects that the Government of Lebanon
will take effective control of southern Lebanon and fulfill the remaining
obligations of Resolution 425, particularly, the restoration of
international peace and security to both sides of the Israel-Lebanon
border. As part of its obligations under Resolution 425, the Government of
Lebanon will bear the responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks
against Israel from within its borders. Israel maintains its right to act
forcefully if terrorist attacks on northern Israel continue after the
As Israeli troops were withdrawing from southern Lebanon, members of
the SLA and their families fled their homes in fear of advancing Hezbollah
forces. Israel is admitting SLA personnel and their families into Israel.
They are being sent to hotels and guest houses throughout Israel and
Interior Ministry staff will visit each family and provide them with
one-year residency permits that include the right to work, health
insurance and other social benefits. Special arrangements are being made
for the schooling of their children.