The US Department of State wrote in its Dec. 1, 2011 article "Background Note: Lebanon," available on www.state.gov:
"On July 12, 2006, Hizballah guerillas crossed into Israel, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others, precipitating a war with Israel. Israeli air strikes hit Hizballah positions in the south and strategic targets throughout Lebanon, and Israeli ground forces moved against Hizballah in southern Lebanon. Hizballah resisted the ground attack and fired thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel. By the time the war ended on August 14, an estimated 1,200 Lebanese civilians and hundreds of Hizballah fighters had died, along with 119 Israeli military and 43 Israeli civilians. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war, provided for a ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal and lifting of blockades, disarming of Hizballah and other militias, and a ban on unauthorized weapons transfers into Lebanon. UNSCR 1701 also significantly strengthened UNIFIL's mandate and authorized its enlargement from about 2,000 up to a maximum of 15,000. Bolstered by UNIFIL, which by the beginning of 2007 had more than 11,000 personnel, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) deployed to southern Lebanon and the border with Israel for the first time in almost four decades.
The war temporarily or permanently displaced roughly one-quarter of Lebanon's population and caused enormous damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. The country, which was already seriously indebted, suffered roughly $5 billion in damages and financial losses."
Gerald M. Steinberg, PhD, Professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University, Israel, wrote the following in an Apr. 8, 2008 email to ProCon.org:
"The immediate cause of the conflict was Hizbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to exchange for Samir Kuntar, who was convicted for leading a 1979 terror attack. Hizbollah had mounted a number of failed kidnapping attempts, and the 2006 cross-border attack, in which 8 Israelis were killed and two captured, should not have been a surprise - and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had prepared a detailed plan for this scenario.
In addition, since the 1980s, Hizbollah had been building up its military capabilities in cooperation with Iran and Syria, including the deployment of thousands of missiles and rockets. Attacks were launched periodically, and the Israeli military withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000, was viewed as a major victory, and a sign of Israeli weakness. Hizbollah had spread its military assets, including long-range missiles, throughout Lebanon, including the fortified headquarters in Beirut. Nassralah compared Israeli military capabilities to a spider web that would quickly collapse.
Israeli planners anticipated a confrontation, and this event gave Israel the opportunity to reestablish deterrence as a central part of national security strategy. The Iranian nuclear weapons program added to this, as the threat of 'massive retaliation' by Hizbollah became part of Iran's effort to deter an Israeli preventive strike. In preparing for scenarios for responding to Hizbollah attacks, Israeli planners sought to neutralize this capability and dissuade Iran from continuing on this course. Taken together, when Hizbollah attacked, the scale of the Israeli response had already been determined."
Dov Waxman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Baruch College, City University of New York, published an article in the Winter 2006-2007 edition of The Washington Quarterly titled "Between Victory and Defeat: Israel after the War with Hizballah":
"The mutual deterrence, effectively a 'balance of terror' between Israel and Hizballah, that ensured caution on both sides collapsed as a result of Hizballah's July 12 attack and Israel's fierce response to it... If Hizballah's initial attack constituted a minor breach of the rules of the game, albeit a highly provocative one, Israel's response ended the game completely...
Israel could also capitalize on the existing support internationally, particularly U.S. and French, for Hizballah's disarmament and the deployment of Lebanese troops to the border with Israel, which was expressed most clearly in UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed in February 2004.
Israel's military escalation was also a response to a perceived weakness and growing danger: the steady erosion of Israeli deterrence. This erosion began with Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, which was hailed in Lebanon and around the Arab world as a victory for Hizballah and a sign of Israel's diminishing ability to withstand Arab resistance due to its society's aversion to casualties... In short, Israel's military restraint and territorial disengagements signaled to its adversaries that its once famed and feared willingness to fight was a thing of the past and that the time was ripe to intensify attacks against it...
There was another strategic consideration behind Israel's decision to escalate the conflict with Hizballah. It was well known that Hizballah had amassed thousands of short-range Katyusha rockets (approximately 13,000 in total), roughly 500 medium-range rockets, and dozens of long-range rockets that were capable of striking deep inside Israel. This missile capability represented a strategic threat to Israel, giving Hizballah the ability to terrorize much of Israel's population and paralyze its economic life..."
The International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in its July 25, 2006 report "Israel/Palestine/Lebanon: Climbing Out of the Abyss," available on its website:
"Hizbollah had called 2006 'the year of retrieving the prisoners', and, for many months, Hassan Nasrallah had publicly proclaimed the movement’s intention of seizing soldiers for the purpose of a prisoner exchange...
...Hizbollah was under relative stress, concerned about domestic developments and steps to curb its military potential, but most importantly intent on reasserting the 'importance of its resistance and of its unrivalled efficacy as a deterrent to a threat posed by Israel'. Even the less aggressive Israeli response Hizbollah expected would have made its case, establishing once more that the movement is the only Lebanese actor capable of hurting the enemy and, when attacked, of defending the country. The concurrence with Hamas’s abduction of an Israeli soldier and Israel’s harsh response rendered this all the more appealing, for it allowed Hizbollah to reclaim the mantle of an Arab- Islamic force transcending both its Lebanese and Shiite identities."
Ami Isseroff, DSc, former Director of the MidEastWeb for Coexistence, an Israeli-based non-governmental organization, wrote in a June 21, 2010 article under the section "Israel and the Palestinians: A History Since Oslo" on mideastweb.org:
"On the morning of July 12, Hezbollah... crossed the blue line border from Lebanon to Israel and attacked an Israeli army patrol, killing 3 and capturing 2 soldiers. An additional soldier died the following day and several were killed when a tank hit a mine, while pursuing the captors. At the same time, Hezbollah began a series of rocket and mortar attacks on northern Israel. This incident may have been timed to coincide with the meeting of the G-8, which was to examine the issue of the Iranian nuclear development program. It also occurred against the background of the earlier fighting in Gaza.
Subsequently, Israel carried out massive but selective bombing and artillery shelling of Lebanon, hitting rocket stores, Hezbollah headquarters in the Dahya quarter of Beirut and al-Manara television in Beirut, and killing an estimated 900 persons in total, many of them civilians. Hezbollah responded by launching thousands of rockets on Haifa, Tiberias, Safed and other towns deep in northern Israel, killing about 40 civilians. About 120 soldiers were killed in the fighting. A Hezbollah Iranian supplied C-802 missile hit an Israeli missile cruiser off the coast of Beirut, killing 4. Hezbollah rockets also sank a Cambodian ship and damaged an Egyptian one. The G-8 democratic industrial powers, meeting in St Petersburg, issued a statement calling for an end to violence, return of the soldiers and compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559 UN Security Council Resolution 1680, which call for disarming militias.
After Israeli air-attacks proved ineffective at stopping Hezbollah rocket attacks or producing a satisfactory cease-fire resolution, Israel launched a limited ground invasion of Lebanon, making halting and indecisive moves coupled with aggressive rhetoric by Israeli public figures. Efforts continued to broker a cease fire that would be satisfactory to both sides. Key Israeli demands were implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1680 - that is, disarming the Hezbollah, and moving the Lebanese army up to border, to take control of south Lebanon from the Hezbollah, as well as return of the kidnapped soldiers. Israel and the US also wanted a strong international force that would oversee disarmament of the Hezbollah. Key Lebanese demands were embodied in a seven point plan that included deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon, but did not include disarmament of Hezbollah. Lebanese also insisted on return of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, and immediate Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. Lebanon also demanded the Sheba farms territory from Israel. In 2000, the UN had ruled that Sheba farms, in the Golan Heights, is part of Syria. Syria, for its part, had refused to demarcate its border with Lebanon formally but said it supported the Lebanese demand.
The desultory Israeli offensive was stepped up on August 11 when efforts to broker a cease-fire appeared to be at an impasse, and Israeli troops began advancing in force toward the Litani river, 30 KM north of the Israel-Lebanon border. At the same time however, the UN Security Council met and approved Resolution 1701, calling for cessation of hostilities, and deployment of the Lebanese army in Southern Lebanon, but with ambiguous wording about the various issues. Both sides stopped the fighting on August 14, 2006."