2000: Invincibles flee South Lebanon

Here to Stay: A Timeline of Palestine

Excerpted from The Dossier on Palestine

On 24 May 2000 Israel is driven out of South Lebanon "in chaos and humiliation" (LA Times) by Hizbollah guerillas, some 300 in number, ending a 22-year illegal and destructive occupation - a major defeat.

Israel left tens of thousands dead and 2,200 destroyed homes, compared to nine Israeli civilians deaths during that period. Hizbollah accomplished what UN Resolutions defied by Israel had failed to do.

6,000 Israeli troops and the "South Lebanese army' mercenaries fled in panic, 6,000 to Israel, some of whom, wearing Israeli uniforms, now man checkpoints in Palestinian territory. (Jerusalem Post, 22/3/01)

- Israel offers bribes to its SLA mercenaries on condition they leave the country; it asks Canada amongst others to admit these war criminals and to proscribe Hizbollah as "terrorists".

- Israel illegally holds the 40 sq km Shabaa Farms, over which Lebanon and Syria claim sovereignty, using its occupation to pressure both.

- Hundreds of Lebanese civilians storm Israel's Khiam prison, freeing about 140 prisoners and exposing a hideous apparatus of torture and terror employed there - Electric wires used to torture inmates during interrogation, a whipping-post, boards on which prisoners were tied-down, letters which were never distributed, and a crutch used by a prisoner crippled by torture, witnessed by Robert Fisk of The Independent.*

- The IDF and SLA leave behind a huge cache of arms.

- Hizbollah distinguish themselves with a policy of restraint to the SLA. "In Christian eyes, it was the Israelis who disgraced themselves, with their desertion of their predomi-nantly Christian-ofÞcered SLA allies." (David Hirst, Guardian, 5/28/00)

The defeat is the result of "determined popular resistance willing to take punishment and make sacrificesŠ". (Edward Said, Al Ahram Weekly, end of May 2000)

- Hizbollah, without foreign state support, take up positions along the Israeli border, emerging as "the most formidable fighting force Israel has ever faced. Its triumph is already having a psychological impact on Arabs everywhere, not least in Palestine," observes an LA Times op-ed (5/26/00):

"These scenes have potentially far-reaching implications. Can others in the Middle East living under foreign military occupation, such as the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, have failed to register what real liberation looks like? Everywhere Hezbollah fighters, derided by the Israeli and us governments as 'terrorists', conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, handing prisoners over to government troops and ensuring that the liberation was not marred by acts of vengeance. These supposed fanatical terrorists were once again shown to be a disciplined and responsible liberation force."

- UNIFIL troops increase from 4,500 to 5,600 in June. Lebanon and UNIFIL repeatedly charge Israeli border violations in the next months.

Endnote

* On 9 January 2000 the Israeli human rights ngo, B'Tselem, had accused Israeli forces and their mercenaries, the "South Lebanese Army" (SLA, portrayed as "Christian allies" by the media), of committing war crimes in south Lebanon: the extra-judicial detention and torture of Lebanese citizens by the SLA; the expulsion of residents from the Israeli-occupied zone in southern Lebanon; and indiscriminate firing that kills and wounds civilians.



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