Hezbollah has waged a guerrilla war against Israeli military forces in southern Lebanon and carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians for nearly three decades.
Hezbollah emerged during Israel's first war against Lebanon in 1982 with the help of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran's elite military unit. The IRGC deployed members of its special operations branch to Lebanon's Bekka Valley to fight against Israel's incursion into the region, which followed a series of cross-border attacks mounted against northern Israel by Palestine Liberation Organization forces based in Lebanon.
In addition to driving the Israeli military out of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah was originally formed to establish an "Islamic Republic" encompassing Lebanon and Israel. According to its 1985 platform, the conflict with Israel "is not only limited to the IDF presence in Lebanon" but to "the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem."
Following the Israeli army's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hezbollah acquired missiles and armaments, entrenched itself on Israel's northern border and increased its presence in the West Bank and Gaza, providing weapons, training and funds to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
Despite Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah has continued to launch attacks against the Jewish state. The following October, for example, Hezbollah operatives abducted three Israeli soldiers, who were patrolling Israel's border with Lebanon, and an Israeli businessman. The soldiers' remains and the businessman were returned to Israel in 2004 in exchange for more than 400 prisoners and 59 bodies of Lebanese fighters.
Hezbollah's ongoing campaign against Israel erupted in July 2006 when Hezbollah operatives killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others stationed in Israeli sovereign territory. In response to the attack, Israeli forces launched a series of strikes intended to remove the Hezbollah threat from its border and cripple the terrorist organization's military capabilities.
Hezbollah fired approximately 4,000 rockets into Israel during the 34-day conflict, which ended with a United Nations-brokered cessation of hostilities in the form of U.N. Resolution 1701. The U.N. resolution called on the Lebanese government to secure its borders, prevent the import of any weapons not authorized by the government and dismantle any non-state militias operating in its territory.
During a rally in southern Beirut a month after the cessation of hostilities, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah suggested that Hezbollah would defy the U.N. resolution, proclaiming that his organization still maintained an arsenal of more than 20,000 rockets with no plans to disarm. Nasrallah has also threatened that Hezbollah has rebuilt and improved its rocket and missiles arsenal and now has the capabilities to strike deep into Israel, including Tel Aviv.
Although there have been no large-scale violations of the U.N. resolution, several small clashes between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli soldiers have taken place since the cessation of hostilities. Hezbollah has also attempted to avenge the death of Operations Chief Imad Mughniyah, who was killed in a February 2008 car bombing in Syria, by carrying out attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets outside of Israel. Authorities have thwarted Hezbollah plots against Israeli and Jewish interests in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey, and Israeli police and Shin Bet foiled another Hezbollah plot in August 2009 to assassinate Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
While Hezbollah's recent plots against Israeli and Jewish interests have been foiled, the terrorist organization has succeeded in carrying out attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets outside of Lebanon and Israel, including the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people, and the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires two years later, which killed 85 people. The group has also been connected to other attacks against Jewish targets in Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Thailand and the U.K.