How Many Tanks Did Israel Lose in 2006 War with Lebanon?

by James Buchanan

A recent article in the Jerusalem Post reports “The US warned Lebanon that if it did not prevent any recurrence of the border-fire incident that occurred earlier this month, the IDF would destroy the Lebanese Armed Forces within four hours…” The US envoy’s assistant was referring to an Israeli plan for war. There’s just one little problem: Not all wars go according to plan. The last Israel war on Lebanon was a costly disaster for Israel.

No doubt it’s a matter of state secrecy in Israel, but their tank losses in Lebanon were BIG. A low figure of 10 is a fairly certain minimum judging from various news reports during the invasion. The high figure might be 50 or maybe even 100. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon was meant to create a barren wasteland for several miles north of the Israeli border. The Israelis were systematically destroying private homes along the border. Some Lebanese received phone call warnings from the Israeli army, telling them that their home was about to be destroyed in only a few hours. This appears to be all the humanitarian concern Israel felt obliged to show. (One wonders if people with unlisted numbers were simply killed without warning?) Mounting Israeli tank losses may have accomplished what world condemnation could not.

One news article reported “Powerful anti-tank missiles manufactured by Russia and Iran are being used with deadly effectiveness by Hezbollah against the Israeli army in southern Lebanon, military sources say. A large proportion of the 68 Israeli soldiers who have died in south Lebanon since the start of the offensive a month ago were killed by such missiles… ‘The terrorists know where the weak spots are, and we are being badly hit,’ the newspaper quotes a senior official as saying. The attacks are a blow to the pride of Israel’s army. Merkava III and IV tanks are considered among the most powerful in the world and have a reputation for extremely resistant armour and protective systems… Israel’s tanks, crucial for any ground operation in southern Lebanon, have proved vulnerable to the attacks of Hezbollah and ill-adapted to the hilly and heavily wooded terrain. Israeli military officials have also admitted surprise at the level of resistance they are meeting from Hezbollah fighters, who are well-trained and have been firing at tanks from very close range.”

An Abrams main battle tank costs roughly 4.3 million. Israel’s Merkava heavy battle tank is no doubt comparably expensive. The Milan anti-tank rocket costs about $24,000 and can destroy an Abrams tank at a distance of 2,000 meters. Given Iran’s considerable oil resources, it would be a small matter for them to supply Hezbollah with enough of those missiles to destroy all of Israel’s tanks. 

Even more alarming for Israel is the fact that the Russian RPG 29, which can destroy an Abrams tank at 500 meters, costs a grand total of $800. The Iranians are reportedly making copies of Russian anti-tank weapons, which would make it a lot easier for Hezbollah or the Palestinians to buy such weapons. The tank has been a symbol of oppression from Stalin’s tyranny to Israel’s many brutal forays into Arab neighborhoods. Evolving technology may be making the tank –even the most advanced heavy tank with multiple layers of explosive reactive armor– obsolete.



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