Rockets break the quiet in emptied towns along Israel-Lebanon border|Arab News Japan

  • “Hezbollah is harassing us,” said Yoav Hermoni, the spokesman for Dan, a kibbutz where such exchanges of fire have become common
  • With Israel facing the threat of a two-front war, it has evacuated areas along its border with Lebanon

KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel: As the sun sets on the hills of northern Israel, four rockets fired from Lebanon trace arcs through the sky before being intercepted with a bang by air defenses.

“Hezbollah is harassing us,” said Yoav Hermoni, the spokesman for Dan, a kibbutz where such exchanges of fire have become common while Israel has been at war in the Gaza Strip for the past month.

The Iran-backed movement in Lebanon has exchanged fire with Israel’s army repeatedly in the weeks since the October 7 attack by Palestinian group Hamas plunged Israel into a war in Gaza to the south.

With Israel facing the threat of a two-front war, it has evacuated areas along its border with Lebanon — including far-northern Dan near the occupied Golan Heights.

Some 600 of Dan’s 850 inhabitants were relocated to a hotel in the coastal city of Haifa, Hermoni told AFP by phone.

“About 30 stayed here, including me,” said Hermoni, who works as a tour guide in normal times but has now been left in charge of the security of the kibbutz.

Across Israel — both near Gaza and Lebanon — around 224,000 people have been made to leave their homes because of the conflict, according to officials.

“We’re refugees in our country,” said Hermoni.

The Hamas attack of October 7 took place about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Dan, when gunmen stormed out of blockaded Gaza and attacked communities, leaving more than 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians, and abducting more than 240.

Israel’s withering aerial bombardment and ground attacks in Gaza since have seen over 10,500 people killed, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

But since the day after the attack, Israel has also traded fire across its northern border on a near-daily basis with Hamas’s ally Hezbollah and other Palestinian militants in Lebanon.

The tit-for-tat exchanges have echoed across the verdant hills of the Upper Galilee region.

Below the UN-patrolled border, where a wall snakes along a ridge, camouflaged Israeli soldiers sit among the vegetation or rest in tents set up next to the road.

In his first speech since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned last week that “all options” are on the table and that the chance of open conflict was “realistic.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday Hezbollah would be making “the mistake of its life” if it joined the war.

And on Tuesday, Israel said it had responded to another rocket attack from Lebanon with a renewed aerial bombardment.

The exchanges have killed more than 80 people on the Lebanese side of the border and eight inside Israel.

Among the dead in Lebanon are more than 60 combatants from Hezbollah and 11 civilians, according to an AFP count. In Israel, six soldiers and two civilians have been killed, according to officials.

Despite the dull thud of artillery and the sight of warplanes a regular reminder of the danger, Yakov Levi said he was “not scared.”

The hotel where the 26-year-old works in the historic town of Safed was made to close its doors, leaving Levi to “sit all day.”

“This area is very explosive,” said Naor Shimoni, a 38-year-old musician from the village of Safsufa, who had come by motorcycle to a scenic viewpoint in the hills.

If the situation gets worse, said the father-of-five, “maybe I’m going to take my wife and my kids to some place more safe, but I’m going to stay here and protect my village.”

“No place in Israel is going to be safe” if there is a “real war” with Hezbollah, said Yitzchak Lalush, who has also decided to stay.

The stakes are high on Israel’s northern frontier, said the 40-year-old social worker.

“If they get here, they get Tel Aviv,” he said. “We need to stand (our) ground and fight.”

AFP

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