Following a surge in cross-border fire, Israel announced the evacuation of over 20,000 residents from Kiryat Shmona, a major town located on the northern border with Lebanon. This decision marks one of the most significant evacuations from the eastern Galilee region’s verdant hills.
Recent weeks have witnessed recurring, albeit restricted, clashes on the Israel-Lebanon frontier, which intensified after a conflict in Gaza began a fortnight ago. To maintain security, Israel had previously marked several regions along the boundary as restricted military zones.
Journalist Casualties at the Border
Tragedy struck on Thursday as Lebanese forces reported the death of a journalist due to Israeli gunfire. This incident occurred near Kiryat Shmona, where both Israeli forces and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group, engaged in heavy combat. The Committee to Protect Journalists has chronicled the deaths of over 20 journalists since the commencement of the Israel-Gaza conflict and is presently investigating further reports of journalists being killed, injured, or missing.
Recalling a similar incident from the prior week, Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah lost his life in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army holds Israel responsible, prompting Reuters to request a comprehensive and prompt investigation by Israel, who has since declared it is examining the case.
Operational Motive Behind the Evacuation
Daniel Hagari, representing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), clarified the reasoning behind the evacuations. According to him, these measures, executed in multiple northern border towns, grant the IDF greater latitude to act against Hezbollah.
The evacuees from Kiryat Shmona will be accommodated in guesthouses funded by the state, joining a large number of Israelis who have been displaced from their residences near the southern Gaza boundary.
Mounting Fears of Escalation
The incessant skirmishes along the Israel-Lebanon border have raised apprehensions about the Israel-Hamas clash in Gaza potentially escalating into a larger regional conflict. Israel’s military reported an overnight drone strike that targeted a “terrorist in Lebanese territory” and revealed that they had aimed at Hezbollah assets, retaliating against rockets launched from Lebanon.
Recent IDF Drone Strikes
Further tensions were observed when the IDF executed a fresh drone attack against a terror cell at the Lebanon border. The details about the cell remain undisclosed. However, the IDF stated that numerous anti-tank guided missiles, originating from Lebanon, targeted IDF stations along the border, eliciting artillery retaliation from the troops.