The North of Israel is Under Fire, Internal Refugees Flee

While attention is riveted on Gaza, over 80,000 Israelis near the Lebanon border have fled. Since October 7, the north of Israel has been shelled daily by Hezbollah, a Shiʿi terrorist organization with close ties to Iran.

Hezbollah has ten times the fire power of Hamas and is capable of launching thousands of missiles every day. More than ten years ago, it declared its intention to invade Israel, with a plan identical to that used by Hamas on October 7, according to Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Sarit Zehavi of the Alma Research and Education Center, which is located south of Levona.

Hezbollah first emerged during Lebanon’s civil war and the Israeli invasion in 1982. Since the 2000s it has been one of the foremost political forces in Lebanon.

Zehavi said, “Hezbollah wants to distribute the Islamic revolution values and wants to take over Lebanon and if it creates a campaign against Israel, even though it may destroy Lebanon, it will weaken all the other players in Lebanon. These Shiite Muslims are indoctrinated in the culture of hate and war. The Iranian ayatollahs are following the Islamic Revolution ideas and values. The main idea is to spread these values all over the world of complete loyalty to the supreme leader using their mosques and teaching their children.”

Impact on the Upper Galilee Region

In response to the threat, the Israeli government issued an evacuation order three months ago for communities near the border. More than 80,000 internal refugees from 30 communities in the north are spread in different hotels around the country, paid by the government. In the Upper Galilee, site of previously thriving kibbutzim and farms, 75 startups had raised more than $250,00 M to provide thousands of high-salary jobs.

The Lobby 1701 organization, comprised of evacuated civilians, told US officials in a December letter that, “American support in a move against Hezbollah is crucial for their safe return,” according to Ynetnews. “They demand that Israel be allowed to ensure the return of the displaced residents to their homes, either through diplomatic means or via a military operation to remove threats against their lives. Their appeal comes amid reports that the U.S. government is preventing an Israeli military move on the northern border meant to ensure the security of the residents in the Galilee communities.”

In their letter to senior government and security officials in Washington, the residents noted:

“We all witnessed the horrific massacre committed on October 7th by Hamas terrorists against innocent civilians in the south of Israel. Since October 7th Hezbollah has put an end to our daily lives here in northern Israel. Because of their daily missiles and UAV attacks that target our homes and communities, and the threat of many more, we were unwillingly forced to evacuate.”

“For 17 years we have had to bear witness to how ineffective by UNSCR 1701 is in the face of reality. Hezbollah never acted in accordance with the resolution and openly established military positions on the border – feet away from our homes. Meanwhile, UNIFIL has been providing a false sense of security, while allowing Hezbollah to rearm, prepare and plan its invasion into Israel. This has proven especially true over the past three years.”

Lobby 1701 believes that there’s no realistic chance of dealing with Hezbollah through diplomatic means.

“If Lebanon is unable to properly implement UNSCR 1701 to the extent that we deserve and demand, to provide a basic sense of security, we will relentlessly pressure our government to solve this issue through military means, and we request your full support. This is not a threat, nor is it a warning. This is an urgent call for action to the international community to prevent the next massacre.”

Residents want a depopulated zone in Lebanon close to the border. Hezbollah stores munitions in local homes.

“No country could accept this current situation, in which a neighboring terrorist organization calls for its destruction and fires towards its citizens. Nor would any father or mother put their children at risk in such a threatening environment. Therefore, we feel certain that you understand why we can’t return home to the status quo on October 6th and attempt to live a normal life while enduring this threat. The horrific images of October 7th warn us of the future waiting for us if we do.”

Is an All-Out War in the North a Precondition for Evacuated Israelis to Return Home?

Since Israel’s northern cities and towns were evacuated due to Hezbollah attacks, it has been claimed repeatedly in the public and media discourse that the population will not return home before a widescale war distances the terrorist organization from the border. A survey by The Institute for National Security Studies challenges this prevalent assumption:

“The assessment is, therefore, that an integrated response is needed: a continuation of the aggressive military activity that is part of the current fighting, coupled with significant improvements to security in northern Israel, led by enhanced civilian protection and defense means – alongside a diplomatic move whereby Hezbollah agrees to distance its operatives from the border with Israel.”

Hezbollah’s ongoing military activities south of the Litani River, involving the utilization and storage of armaments, constitute a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

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