Israel and Hezbollah cannot back down and are nearing all-out war

by Lucy Williamson, Report from the Israel-Lebanon border

BBC David Kamali BBC

“Every day, every night, it’s a bomb.” [It’s a] There are problems,” David Kamali told the BBC.

All-out war between Israel and Hezbollah would be a “catastrophe”, the UN secretary-general says, but for David Kamali, who lives under gunfire almost daily on the Israeli side of the border, it would be a solution.

Last month, a Hezbollah rocket fired from Lebanon landed in the front yard of his house in the border town of Kiryat Shmona, cracking several parts of the house and scattering rubble.

He points to a gaping hole where shrapnel has sliced ​​through the wall, inches from his feet, and heads into the hills above us, where Hezbollah-controlled territory begins.

“Every day, every night, it’s a bomb.” [It’s a] “Here’s the thing,” he said. “I was born here. If I spent one night here I’d go mad.”

David still lives in his rubble-strewn home, where the remains of a television set still contain shrapnel and the blackened remains of his car lie outside, destroyed by a fire that ripped through his front yard after the rocket struck.

Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, most of Kiryat Shmona’s residents fled as Hezbollah began raining rockets on the town in support of its Palestinian allies.

David is one of the few who remain. “I’ve lived here for 71 years,” he says. “I’m not going back. I was in the military and I’m not scared.”

His solution? “Wage war against Hezbollah and kill Hezbollah,” he says.

David's burnt car

David’s property has been hit by rocket attacks. “If I spent a night here I would go mad.”

Israel is fighting back hard HezbollahThey killed senior commanders and attacked targets inside Lebanon.

Hezbollah has launched a massive volley of drone and missile attacks across the border this month, raising threats on both sides, and earlier this week the group released drone footage of military facilities and civilian infrastructure in the Israeli city of Haifa.

Tough rhetoric has long been part of each other’s deterrence strategies, with both sides seen as wary of all-out war.

But as the tit-for-tat battle continues and more than 60,000 Israelis remain displaced from their homes in the north, there are signs that both Israeli leaders and citizens are ready to support a military option to force Hezbollah out of the border.

Kiryat Shmona’s mayor, Avichai Stern, showed me the site last week of a rocket landing on a street near his office.

“I don’t think there is any country in the world that would tolerate the daily shooting of its own citizens,” Mayor Stern said.

“And it is unacceptable to sit here like lambs to the slaughter, waiting for the day we are attacked, as we saw in the South. Everybody understands that the only choice is war now or war later.”

The dangerous stalemate here is heavily influenced by the war Israel is fighting in Gaza, more than 100 miles (160 km) to the south.

A ceasefire there would also help ease tensions in the north, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has kept both conflicts going, backed by a promise to his far-right government allies that he will destroy Hamas before ending the Gaza war.

Earlier this week, an Israeli military spokesman also said the goal may not be realistic.

“The idea that Hamas can be destroyed or eliminated is a misleading idea to the public,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israeli television.

On the Lebanese side of the border, where more than 90,000 people have fled, the mood among those who remain is equally grim.

EPA Israeli Air Strikes in LebanonEPA

Israel is bombing southern Lebanon

Fatima Belhas lives near Jubal el-Bottom, a few miles (7km) from the Israeli border.

She said she was initially frightened when Israel bombed the area, but has now accepted the bombings and has no plans to leave.

“Where should I go?” she asked.[Others] “I have other relatives, but I can’t bother them. I don’t have the money.”

“Maybe it’s better to die in our homeland with dignity,” she said. “We grew up resisting, not being forced out of our land like the Palestinians.”

Hussein Abaran recently left the village of Mais al-Jubal, about six miles (10 kilometers) from Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese side of the border.

He said communication and electricity were unreliable and few shops were functioning, making life there impossible.

The few dozen families who remain are mainly elderly people who refuse to leave their homes and farms, he told the BBC.

But he supported Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel.

“The people of the South [of Lebanon] “We have survived years of aggression and have emerged stronger,” he said. “Only by resisting can we become stronger.”

Damage in southern Lebanon

The BBC witnessed the damage caused by Israeli artillery fire in southern Lebanon in May.

While this border dispute is difficult for people on both sides, an all-out war would escalate the crisis to another level.

Some Beirut residents are packing their suitcases and preparing their passports in preparation for all-out war, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said this week that no part of Israel would be exempt.

Hezbollah is a well-armed and well-trained military, backed by Iran and Israel, a highly advanced military power that is allied with the United States.

All-out war would likely be devastating for both sides.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this was […] Beyond imagination”.

The question for Israel is how to stop the rockets and return its citizens to the abandoned northern parts of the country.

The problem for Hezbollah is how to stop the rockets at a time when its ally Hamas is under Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip.

The longer the situation continues, the greater the risk of miscalculation and the more pressure the Israeli government will come under to resolve the situation.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack has changed Israel’s security outlook, with many whose homes are on the border – and some in positions of power – saying past agreements with Hezbollah are no longer enough.

Tom Perry

Tom Perry says Israel’s leadership has failed and should step down

Tom Perry lives in Kibbutz Malkiya, which faces the Lebanese border fence, and was drinking with friends earlier this month when a Hezbollah rocket ripped through the front of his house.

“I believe the Secretary-General’s warning is correct. [war] It would be a disaster for the region,” he said.

“But unfortunately, it seems there is no other option. No deal will last forever, because they want us dead. As long as Israel does not eliminate Hezbollah, we are doomed to be at war forever.”

He says Israeli leaders have lost all credibility since the Oct. 7 attacks and have no strategy to bring about peace.

“They should all resign. The biggest failure of our country and our nation was October 7th and they were our leaders. We don’t need these leaders.”

An end to the Israeli conflict could lead to increased calls for political change.

The Israeli prime minister is caught between growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and growing support for war in the north and many believe he is biding his time.

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