The Israeli–Hezbollah conflict in the summer of 2006, although brief, had a lasting impact on the region and prompted an intense humanitarian response. The conflict raised challenging questions for the United Nations (UN) about how to assist a middle-income yet extremely vulnerable population in a context where global and local relations are highly politicised. This paper focuses on two key questions that emerged from the humanitarian response. First, how can humanitarian agencies, and particularly the UN, improve the protection of civilians, and was what they did in Lebanon enough? Second, how can humanitarian agencies create partnerships with local actors and still remain true to core humanitarian principles when local actors are fiercely divided along confessional lines and influenced by external actors, and when some, such as Hezbollah, are parties to the conflict? This paper argues that despite the importance of protection and partnerships to the humanitarian response, their role in the UN emergency response still falls short.