Hezbollah After The Israeli Withdrawal
On May 25, 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon to the UN-agreed Israeli border, and their pullout was certified by the UN as complete. Lebanon and Syria claim the Shebaa Farms, a 35 km² area, to be occupied Lebanese territory despite the UN ruling, and on that basis Hezbollah has continued to engage Israeli forces in that area. The UN recognizes the Shebaa farms as part of the Golan Heights, and thus Syrian (and not Lebanese, though both countries deny that) territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Hezbollah's role in the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon gained the organization much respect within Lebanon and the wider Arab and Islamic world, particularly among the country's large Shi'a community. The Shi'a are the single largest religious group in Lebanon, comprising at least 40% of the three million citizens (see Demographics of Lebanon). The Maronite President of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud, said: "For us Lebanese, and I can tell you the majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn't for them, we couldn't have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement." Even 74 percent of Lebanese Christians viewed Hezbollah as a resistance organization.
After Israeli forces left Southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah provided military defense of the area. It is suggested by some that the Lebanese Government has at times viewed Hezbollah as the army of South Lebanon. Since summer 2006, though, foreign peacekeepers and Lebanese army troops have also been stationed in the South. Fouad Siniora said that "the continued presence of Israeli occupation of Lebanese lands in the Shebaa Farms region is what contributes to the presence of Hezbollah weapons. The international community must help us in (getting) an Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa Farms so we can solve the problem of Hezbollah's arms." Hezbollah says Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon proves that the Jewish state only understands the language of resistance. It defends its right to keep its weapons as a deterrent against Israeli attack, to liberate the disputed Shebaa Farms border area, which is occupied by Israel.
Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and until the conflict arising in July 2006, Hezbollah has used the period of quiet to create the Hezbollah rocket force, which it claims number over 10,000. Placing them, according to many reports, in civilian locations, including family homes, crowded residential neighborhoods and mosques.
The United Nations considers the Shebaa Farms to be Syrian territory, not Lebanese and has stated that Israel has withdrawn from all Lebanese territory. However, both Syria and Lebanon consider the Shebaa Farms as part of Lebanese territory. Furthermore, various United Nations Security Council resolutions require Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories, including all Lebanese and Syrian territories.
Clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces continued, albeit at a relatively low level, in the years following 2000.
Read more about this topic: History Of Hezbollah
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