Operation LION

International Information

International Operation Name: Lebanon - 2006

International Mission Name: Lebanon - 2006

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name: Middle East

Location: Lebanon

Mission Date: 18 July 2006 - 3 September 2006

Mandate: To evacuate Canadian citizens from Lebanon

Mission Notes: On 26 June 2006, the Palestinian militant group Hamas kidnapped one Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldier and killed two others during an attack on an IDF outpost. On 12 July, Hezbollah crossed into Israeli territory and kidnapped two soldiers and killed eight. This Hezbollah attack from Lebanon into Israel brought condemnation even from Arab nations and more importantly brought about a severe military response from Israel. 

On 13 July Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval vessels attacked roads and bridges in southern Lebanon and Beirut International Airport. Israel also attacked Hezbollah strongholds and to prevent their escape to sanctuary father north in Lebanon. As the conflict intensified, civilians on both sides were killed as Israeli forces pushed into Lebanon and Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel. Some estimates suggest that up to 1 million Lebanese were displaced in the fighting and between 350,000 and 500,000 Israelis.

The United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1701 on 11 August, which had the support of both the Israeli and Lebanese governments. The fighting ended on 17 August when the Lebanese army deployed into south Lebanon; however Israel did not lift its blockade of Lebanon until 8 September. Most Israeli troops withdrew on 1 October.

Caught in the crossfire, Canadian citizens in Lebanon began asking the Government of Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Beirut for assistance in leaving the country. The Government responded by leasing seven ships to evacuate a possible 50,000 Canadians. At the same time, the Canadian Forces were tasked to assist the department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This CF operation was given the name Operation LION.

On 17 July, a 15-member Contingency Planning Assistance Team departed for Lebanon to assist the Embassy in planning the evacuation. On 19 July, 30 CF personnel arrived in Cyprus followed by a further 70 on 21 July. The Navy placed three ships, HMC Ships Halifax, Montreal and Preserver, on standby in case they would be required.

Evacuation of the Canadians began on 19 July. Israeli and Lebanese authorities supported the evacuation by allowing the passage of the civilians and allowing the ships to enter Lebanese waters. The evacuees were taken to Cyprus and Turkey, where they were processed in reception centers. After that they were flown back to Canada. 

The bulk of the evacuees were removed from Lebanon by late July, although the evacuation finally ended on 15 August. In total, almost 15,000 people were evacuated from Lebanon in Operation Lion. Not all were Canadians as Americans, Australians Brazilians, and Ukrainians, were also evacuated.

With the start of the evacuations, most CF personnel deployed to Lebanon in order to manage the flow of evacuees, mostly from the port of Beirut, but some from Tyre. Besides a headquarters section, there was a telecommunications section, a medical section, naval liaison officers, security personnel and movement control personnel. In total, about 150 persons deployed on the operation. While most CF personnel redeployed shortly after the main effort was reduced in early August, some remained in theatre until 3 September, at which time Op LION officially ended.


20 July 2006
8 Wing, Trenton, Ontario
Photo by Cpl Jean-Francois Neron, 8 Wing Trenton Imaging Section

2 Field Ambulance Medical technicians Private Vanessa Hancock, Corporal Vanessa Simpson and Corporal Krista George didn't hesitate to volunteer their help.

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