1. Why the war began.
"The war began on 12 July, when Israel launched waves of air strikes on Lebanon after Hizbullah killed three soldiers and captured two more on the northern border. (A further five troops were killed by a land mine when their tank crossed into Lebanon in hot pursuit.) Hizbullah had long been warning that it would seize soldiers if it had the chance, in an effort to push Israel into a prisoner exchange. Israel has been holding a handful of Lebanese prisoners since it withdrew from its two-decade occupation of south Lebanon in 2000."
2. Who started the war.
"Last weekend, an editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper went so far as to admit that this was "a war initiated by Israel against a relatively small guerrilla group". Israel's supporters, including high-profile defenders like Alan Dershowitz in the US who claimed that Israel had no choice but to bomb Lebanon, must have been squirming in their seats...
Recent reports have revealed that one of the main justifications for Hizbullah's continuing resistance -- that Israel failed to withdraw fully from Lebanese territory in 2000 -- is now supported by the UN. Last month its cartographers quietly admitted that Lebanon is right in claiming sovereignty over a small fertile area known as the Shebaa Farms, still occupied by Israel. Israel argues that the territory is Syrian and will be returned in future peace talks with Damascus, even though Syria backs Lebanon's position. The UN's admission has been mostly ignored by the international media."
3. Israel only targeted legitimate targets.
"At the time, it looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war's end to make south Lebanon -- the heartland of both the country's Shia population and its militia, Hizbullah -- uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shia who had fled Israel's earlier bombing campaigns.
Israel's use of cluster bombs has been described as a war crime by human rights organisations. According to the rules set by Israel's then chief of staff, Dan Halutz, the bombs should have been used only in open and unpopulated areas -- although with such a high failure rate, this would have done little to prevent later civilian casualties.
After the war, the army ordered an investigation, mainly to placate Washington, which was concerned at the widely reported fact that it had supplied the munitions. The findings, which should have been published months ago, have yet to be made public.
The delay is not surprising. An initial report by the army, leaked to the Israeli media, discovered that the cluster bombs had been fired into Lebanese population centres in gross violation of international law. The order was apparently given by the head of the Northern Command at the time, Udi Adam. A US State Department investigation reached a similar conclusion."
4. Hizbollah deliberately stationed within civilian areas.
"Since the war's end Hizbullah has apparently relocated most of its rockets to conceal them from the UN peacekeepers, who have been carrying out extensive searches of south Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah under the terms of Resolution 1701. According to the UNIFIL, some 33 of these underground bunkers or more than 90 per cent -- have been located and Hizbullah weapons discovered there, including rockets and launchers, destroyed.
The Israeli media has noted that the Israeli army calls these sites "nature reserves"; similarly, the UN has made no mention of finding urban-based Hizbullah bunkers. Relying on military sources, Haaretz reported last month: "Most of the rockets fired against Israel during the war last year were launched from the 'nature reserves'." In short, even Israel is no longer claiming that Hizbullah was firing its rockets from among civilians.
According to the UN report, Hizbullah has moved the rockets out of the underground bunkers and abandoned its rural launch pads. Most rockets, it is believed, have gone north of the Litani River, beyond the range of the UN monitors. But some, according to the Israeli army, may have been moved into nearby Shia villages to hide them from the UN.
As a result, Haaretz noted that Israeli commanders had issued a warning to Lebanon that in future hostilities the army "will not hesitate to bomb -- and even totally destroy -- urban areas after it gives Lebanese civilians the chance to flee". How this would diverge from Israel's policy during the war, when Hizbullah was based in its "nature reserves" but Lebanese civilians were still bombed in their towns and villages, was not made clear.
If the Israeli army's new claims are true (unlike the old ones), Hizbullah's movement of some of its rockets into villages should be condemned. But not by Israel, whose army is breaking international law by concealing its weapons in civilian areas on a far grander scale."
5. Hizbollah intentionally targeted civilian areas.
"Nonetheless, new evidence suggests strongly that, whether or not Hizbullah had the right to use its rockets, it may often have been trying to hit military targets, even if it rarely succeeded. The Arab Association for Human Rights, based in Nazareth, has been compiling a report on the Hizbullah rocket strikes against Arab communities in the north since last summer. It is not sure whether it will ever be able to publish its findings because of the military censorship laws.
But the information currently available makes for interesting reading. The Association has looked at northern Arab communities hit by Hizbullah rockets, often repeatedly, and found that in every case there was at least one military base or artillery battery placed next to, or in a few cases inside, the community. In some communities there were several such sites.
This does not prove that Hizbullah wanted only to hit military bases, of course. But it does indicate that in some cases it was clearly trying to, even if it lacked the technical resources to be sure of doing so. It also suggests that, in terms of international law, Hizbullah behaved no worse, and probably far better, than Israel during the war."
"The evidence so far indicates that Israel:
* established legitimate grounds for Hizbullah's attack on the border post by refusing to withdraw from the Lebanese territory of the Shebaa Farms in 2000;
* initiated a war of aggression be refusing to engage in talks about a prisoner swap offered by Hizbullah;
* committed a grave war crime by intentionally using cluster bombs against south Lebanon's civilians;
* repeatedly hit Lebanese communities, killing many civilians, even though the evidence is that no Hizbullah fighters were to be found there;
* and put its own civilians, especially Arab civilians, in great danger by making their communities targets for Hizbullah attacks and failing to protect them.
It is clear that during the Second Lebanon war Israel committed the most serious war crimes."