President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East and provoking tensions at Israel’s northern border, during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the last major war on that front.
“The second Lebanon War brought northern residents precious quiet, which has been preserved for over a decade,” he said at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem during a memorial for 121 IDF soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians who died in the Second Lebanon War with the Hezbollah terror group in 2006.
“But we paid for this quiet with blood,” he said. “At the same time, the threat is still grave. Just this year, we’ve seen an escalation in the northern front as a result of Iranian provocations. Iran continues its subversion in the Middle East, and is arming groups adjacent to our borders.”
“The Iranian presence is destabilizing the region and could throw the Middle East into uncertainty that will affect Europe and the entire world,” Rivlin warned.
“Israel won’t stand idly. We won’t let Iran entrench itself in Syria. We are not happy to go to war, but Israel will strictly keep its commitment to ensure the safety of its citizens,” he said, echoing remarks repeated many times in recent years by Israeli leaders, mainly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Over the course of the 34-day war, 121 Israeli soldiers fell to the Shiite terrorist group’s anti-tank missiles, mines, rockets, and machine gun fire.
Some 44 Israeli civilians were also killed during the course of the conflict from the near-constant barrage of missiles that rained down on northern cities. In Lebanon, nearly 1,200 people died, though the civilian-to-combatant ratio remains highly contested. Israel says that more than half — between 600 and 800 — of those killed were combatants, while Hezbollah claims just 250 fighters died in the war.
The conflict began on July 12, 2006, when two Israeli soldiers — Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser — were kidnapped by Hezbollah gunmen near Zar’it along the northern border and smuggled back to Lebanon.
In response to the border crossing attack, which left three dead in addition to the two kidnapped — who were later believed to have died during the initial attack — the IDF launched a failed rescue attempt, which turned into a limited operation, which became what is now known as the Second Lebanon War.
Some 30,000 IDF soldiers took part in the fighting, and of those tens of thousands, 145 earned medals of honor or citations from their commanders for bravery.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.