Israel to recognize soldiers who fought in southern Lebanon

The government unanimously approves a proposal recognizing the period from 1982 to 2000 during which troops were deployed in southern Lebanon as an official, named campaign, and will grant a special pin to those who took part in it.

The cabinet vote is hailed by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

“As the last soldier to leave Lebanon, I feel the great honor of recognizing thousands of soldiers,” says Gantz.

The government resolution also recognizes Israel-allied South Lebanon Army fighters.

Israeli soldiers patrol along a road in Israeli-controlled southern Lebanon, March 31, 1996 (AP Photo/Yaron Kaminsky)

A vocal group of IDF veterans from this period has lobbied for this official recognition for years, claiming their experiences in the so-called “security zone” in southern Lebanon were forgotten and ignored by the state.

The symbolic move will place the 18-year military occupation on the same pedestal as Israel’s wars and multi-year military campaigns.

This period, during which the IDF occupied a strip of southern Lebanon — totaling about 10 percent of Lebanese territory — in order to defend northern Israel from terrorist attacks will be known as “The Security Zone in Lebanon Campaign.”

Israel dismantled the security zone and hurriedly pulled back to the international border in late May 2000, under prime minister Ehud Barak. The South Lebanon Army, a militia backed by Israel that fought alongside the IDF in the zone, collapsed as Israel departed. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group subsequently moved into the area, and a Hezbollah cross-border raid led to the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

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