"If only I knew". These were the famous words of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, spoken in regret at his failure to anticipate the heavy cost of the July War in Lebanon in 2006.
They are now taking on a new and fearful resonance in a country that shares a border with Israel and is run by an armed group backed by Iran, as war rages again in Gaza to the south.
The conflict 17 years ago has echoes with the latest violence. The July war began with a cross-border raid by Hezbollah, which included the kidnap of two Israeli soldiers, who were used to demand the release of prisoners from the group held by Israel, including Samir Kuntar.
In the 33 days of conflict that followed, some 1,200 people, overwhelmingly civilians, were killed. There were around 4,000 physical injuries. Thousands more people were psychologically damaged, and tens of thousands left their homeland, never to return.
Direct economic losses were estimated at $3bn, with tens of billions more in indirect losses and diverted investment. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost. Over 125,000 apartments, houses, and shops were destroyed.
Wider infrastructure was wiped out or damaged, including hospitals and schools, bridges and runways, water and electricity mains, factories and other industrial facilities. Repair costs became debts, adding to the burden of previous borrowings.
The war also killed 156 Israeli soldiers and 41 Israeli civilians.
That war did not affect Israel’s economy. It achieved leaps in growth and tremendous industrial and technological development.
While Israel moved on, Lebanon continued to pay the cost of war. And it was very high — on a humanitarian basis — as well as politically, socially and economically. The repercussions lingered in the country for years despite the flow of Gulf aid. That came most strongly at the time. Promises of subsequent support at the Paris III Conference in 2007 were later aborted.
The effects of the war are still being felt. The sheer scale of financial and political degradation led to Lebanon’s protracted and comprehensive political and economic collapse. It accounts, in part, for the country’s long list of problems, including corruption, lack of services, weak growth, the depletion of financial resources and Hezbollah’s dominance.
And the slogan that came with the group’s dominance – "No voice is louder than the sound of battle" – has only increased the corruption and destruction in the country.
Lebanon is much less likely to be able to emerge from it as a viable state should another war with Israel unfold.