In 1981, frequent katyusha rockets launched into Israel by Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists located on Lebanon’s southern border, made life unsustainable for Israelis living in settlements in the Galilee. When the PLO were expelled from Jordan in 1970, they relocated to Lebanon and created havoc for Israelis living in northern Israel. A year later, on June 3, 1982, Israel’s ambassador to Great Britain, Shlomo Argov, was shot in London and seriously wounded by assassins representing the Palestinian Abu Nidal terrorist group. Three days later, on June 6, 1982, corresponding to the 15th of Sivan, the Israeli military invaded Lebanon with the goal of neutralizing the threat to Israel’s north by pushing the PLO 40 KM further north, creating an Israeli-occupied security zone. The Israeli government named the operation Mivtza Shalom HaGallil, Operation Peace for Galilee, which included 60,000 Israeli soldiers and 800 tanks, along with a massive air assault. Within hours, Israel’s Air Force destroyed the Syrian Surface to Air Missile (SAM) batteries in the infamous Beka’a Valley, and downed 25 Syrian fighter jets – mostly Soviet MIG 23s –neutralizing the Syrian threat. Phase one of the operation ended on August 23, 1982 with the expulsion of the PLO from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city. The PLO subsequently moved their operations to Tunisia.

Phase two, which lasted three years, was aimed at preventing the PLO, or their Syrian allies, from returning to Beirut. Since Israeli forces were stationed in Lebanon, they were subject to daily ambushes, by a newly-formed terror organization funded by the Iranians, named Hezbollah. The massive casualties associated with these ambushes, demoralized the Israeli public. During the three-year operation, 656 Israelis were killed in action, and 3,887 were wounded. In May 2000, the Israelis removed their presence completely from Lebanon after suffering the loss of an additional 559 soldiers. About 10 Israeli civilians were killed and 248 were wounded from the missile barrages.

Another casualty of the war was the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his defense minister, general, Ariel Sharon. Support for the government soured when a very public investigation found that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) was passively complicit in a horrific Christian attack on unarmed Moslem men, women and children in a refugee camp in Beirut, which followed the assassination of Lebanon’s pro-Israel Christian President, Bashir Gamayel.

The number of 656 casualties from Operation Peace for Galilee has grown recently, due to the identification of remains of some of the Missing in Action including American-born Zachary Baumel. Israelis, always aware of God’s role in the world, noted that the gematria (numerical equivalent based on assigning each Hebrew letter a value) for Mivtzah Shalom Hagalil is 656. It has been pointed out, however, that most Israelis use the less formal, Milchemet Levanon (Lebanon War). Those words too, amazingly, add up to the gematria of 656.

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