Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has extended his congratulations to Lebanon as it marks the 20th anniversary of the end of Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon.
In a message to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun Sunday, Rouhani offered his congratulations to Lebanon’s government and nation on the anniversary of the “major and glorious victory” against the Zionist occupiers.
“The historic victory that was achieved with the fortitude and resistance shown by the Lebanese men and women is a medal of honor shining on the chest of all people of Lebanon,” Rouhani said.
It showed that the struggle against aggression and occupation inevitably leads to victory, Rouhani added.
The Iranian president said solidarity among the Lebanese people, government, the army and the resistance was key to overcoming the Zionist and Takfiri enemies and thwarting hostile plots.
Lebanon marks the Resistance and Liberation Day on May 25 each year. In May 2000, Israel was forced by Hezbollah to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending nearly two decades of occupation of the country's south.
Hezbollah was established following the 1982 Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon.
Since then, the movement has grown into a powerful military force, dealing repeated blows to the Israeli military, including during a 33-day war in July 2006.
Israeli soldiers still suffering from trauma
Media reports said on Sunday that Israeli troops who took part in the aggression are still dealing with dark memories of the conflict.
According to the report, they are not systematically offered support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other effects left by the conflict as the Israeli regime does not officially consider its 1982-2000 occupation of southern Lebanon as a war.
"They were sent to psychiatric hospitals, which is not appropriate," 50-year-old Avi Maier, who conducted multiple operations in south Lebanon, told AFP in remarks published Sunday.
Maier is now seeking to establish a support center for former soldiers suffering from PTSD, together with Oshrit Shtark, whose brother Erez died along with 72 others when two Israeli military choppers collided en route to Lebanon.
"These are people who saw death close up, their friends dying, or got wounded -- for them life is not simple," Shtark said.
Israel first invaded Lebanon in March 1978 before withdrawing in June. Four years later, Israeli troops again invaded, besieging the Lebanese capital Beirut, before eventually retreating to a "security zone" in the south of the country.
In all, by the end of 1982, the operation had left 20,000 dead and 30,000 wounded, according to an official Lebanese report.
In southern Lebanon, the Israeli troops were confronted by Hezbollah fighters who valiantly fought the invaders. More than 1,200 Israeli soldiers were killed during the 18 years of occupation, and thousands more were wounded.
The mounting Israeli death toll and confusion about the purpose of the occupation, which some labelled "Israel's Vietnam", led then prime minister Ehud Barak to pledge to withdraw in 2000.
On the night of May 23-24, 2000, the final Israeli convoy crossed the occupied Palestinian frontier, sparking joyous celebrations in southern Lebanon.
The last commander to leave was Benny Gantz, who is now the minister of foreign affairs and is scheduled to switch roles with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 18 months under their unity cabinet deal.
The 20th anniversary of the withdrawal comes against the backdrop of ongoing tensions because of repeated Israeli violations of the Lebanese airspace and other provocations, including frequent attacks on Hezbollah fighters who are battling foreign-backed terrorists in Syria.