No mercy in this religious war

Bren Carlill  

Herald Sun, July 11, 2007

IT is a year since Hezbollah fired rockets at Israel from Lebanon and crossed the international border before ambushing Israeli troops.  

It killed eight and abducted two. They have not been seen since.  

Despite its efforts in the ensuing war, Israel was not able to recover its soldiers although a prisoner trade may still happen.  

In 2000, Hezbollah fighters crossed the international border to capture three Israeli soldiers, one of whom was Muslim. All of them died either during the fighting or shortly thereafter.

Four years later, Israel traded 425 terrorist prisoners for the three bodies and an Israeli civilian kidnapped by Hezbollah abroad four years earlier.  

Israel has spared no effort to protect its citizens, or recover the bodies of those who have given their lives. Hezbollah realised that if it kidnapped Israelis, Jerusalem would pay almost any price.  

It has thus interspersed its rocket and gun attacks on Israel with occasional cross-border raids aimed at killing or capturing Israelis.  

Since 2000, some 35 Israelis have died in such attacks.  

Israel might have failed to recover its soldiers but it succeeded in destroying much of Hezbollah’s infrastructure.  

This offered Lebanon and the UN a great opportunity to take back control of southern Lebanon.  

The UN presence was strengthened and Lebanese troops deployed to the border for the first time in decades.  

Unfortunately, today’s anniversary sees Hezbollah much stronger than it was at the end of the war.  

Hezbollah is rebuilding in southern Lebanon, not only refusing to disarm, but it is openly restocking its weapons caches with Syrian and Iranian help.  

The Lebanese Government has failed to stop them and UN troops in Lebanon won’t lift a finger.  

Meanwhile, Hamas has copied Hezbollah’s methods.  

On June 25 last year, Hamas entered Israeli territory, killed two Israeli soldiers and captured a third, Gilad Shalit.  

The year since has seen numerous attempts to capture further soldiers, one as recently as last month.  

In early July, it freed BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was captured by the so-called Army of Islam.  

Johnston was released to convince the world of the ability of Hamas to create law and order in Gaza.  

Maybe it was also hoping we would forget the hundreds of Israelis murdered by Hamas bombs over the years.  

Neither Hezbollah nor Hamas are fighting a territorial conflict.  

Both think and admit as much in official statements that they are fighting a religious war.  

Territorial conflicts can be resolved with compromises, but in religious wars, compromise is considered weakness.  

That’s why every time Israel has compromised in its search for peace Hamas and Hezbollah violence has increased.  

There can be no peace in the Middle East until groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas are disarmed or abandon their Islamist nature.  

BREN CARLILL is policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council