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Israel Marks 1st Anniversary of Lebanon War


Israel is marking the anniversary of last year's Lebanon war. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel is still casting a wary eye over its northern border.

Israel went to war in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others in a cross-border raid. That sparked a 34-day Israeli assault with the stated aim of crushing Hezbollah and winning the release of the captive soldiers. Neither goal has been accomplished.

"There were many difficulties and many failures during the war; the war itself was a failure," said Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

Arens says the failure has harmed Israeli deterrence.

"We lost, and we lost against a group of some 4,000 Hezbollah fighters," he added. "The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] which is a mighty and very efficient and very good army, we lost. And that is going to give people on the other side of the fence, people in the enemy camp, some ideas."

An official inquiry also declared the war a failure, saying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rushed into the conflict without a battle plan. It accused him of a serious failure in judgment, caution and responsibility. As a result, Mr. Olmert's approval rating plunged to single digits.

But during a tour Thursday of northern Israel, which was hit by more than 4,000 Hezbollah rockets, Mr. Olmert defended the war.

He says the northern border is quiet today, and residents are much more secure than they were a year ago.

But the question is: How long will it last? Both Israel and the United Nations say Hezbollah is re-arming despite the deployment of 13,000 U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

"The arms smuggling unfortunately still goes on. Illicit arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon to Hezbollah," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.

Therefore, the assessment in the Israeli army is that another conflict with Hezbollah is inevitable.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused both Israel and Hezbollah of failing to investigate alleged war crimes during the conflict. Amnesty criticized Hezbollah for firing rockets at Israeli cities and towns, and Israel for bombing civilian areas and using cluster bombs.

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