On their fruit farm in northern Israel, less than two kilometers from the Lebanese border, brothers Nadav and Adam Ishach keep a grim memory of the last war that broke out here.
In 2006, Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed militia group operating from Lebanon and once again threatening war with Israel, fired a Katyusha rocket at his property in Betzet. The missile destroyed buildings and started a fire, but fortunately no one was injured.
The brothers dragged pieces of their engine and crumpled the casing for a Breaking: crew to see during a recent visit.
In the past two weeks, rocket and artillery attacks from Lebanon have intensified, leading many to fear that Israel’s war with Hamas could spread beyond Gaza to other fronts.
The brothers hope that his memory is the only missile they find. But they are not at risk: their families have already been evacuated in anticipation of the fighting in northern Israel, far from Gaza.
“It’s very scary,” Nadav said. He pointed to the zigzag concrete wall that delineates the border between the two countries on a nearby hillside.
“We feel like we are being tested because [Hezbollah] “I see civilians and they fire a missile,” he said.
In the past 48 hours, cross-border attacks on Israeli communities and military positions have gone from sporadic to incessant.
- Are you a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Lebanon and worried about leaving the country amid the crisis in the region? Tell us in an email to email@example.com
Thursday night’s bombardment with nine rockets and two anti-tank missiles represents the worst escalation of violence in the area in 17 years.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said some 30 rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israeli positions near the Mount Dov border area. He said Israel’s retaliation hit one unit of militants and killed three.
Hezbollah announced on Sunday the death of six fighters, bringing to 26 the number of its members killed since the latest bout of fighting began.
To date, at least 4,137 Palestinians have been killed in the war, including more than 1,500 children, Palestinian officials say. Israel says more than 1,400 of its citizens have been killed. Several Canadians have also died in the conflict.
Israel evacuates border cities
Lebanon says a separate exchange of fire with Israel killed a journalist, the second to die in a week.
Last week, Issam Abdallah, who worked for the Reuters news agency, was killed and several other journalists were injured when his live camera position was hit by what Lebanese officials say was an Israeli military projectile.
While Hezbollah is the largest pro-Iran militia group operating in the border area, it is not the only one. A Hamas affiliate in Lebanon claimed responsibility for the attacks Thursday in the town of Shmona that injured three people.
On Friday morning, in a sign of how seriously Israel’s military takes the possibility of a full-blown war on its northern border, it announced that Shmona’s 20,000 residents would be evacuated in the coming days.
“We’ve heard a lot of explosions, a lot of sirens. It’s really scary,” Adam Ishach said. He pointed out a blackened area on the hillside near the farm where, he says, a Hezbollah rocket hit and started a small fire the day before.
Israel on Sunday expanded planned evacuations of communities on its northern front with Lebanon as cross-border clashes with Hezbollah fighters intensified.
After enacting a plan last week to relocate residents of 28 border area villages and the nearby town of Kiryat Shmona, with state-funded temporary accommodation, Israel’s Defense Ministry said it was adding 14 communities to the list.
The city streets are eerily deserted. The only people left are those like the Ishach brothers, who have to stay to keep their businesses running.
“If a fire approaches my farm, who is going to put it out?” Nadav asked.
“There we have fruit that needs to be picked and it’s a business that has to continue. We have animals, we have horses; I can’t just abandon them.”
The threat posed by Hezbollah
The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah lasted just over a month. It left more than 1,600 Lebanese civilians dead; 121 Israeli soldiers and 44 civilians were also killed.
Canada and many other Western countries have already warned their citizens to leave Lebanon while commercial flights are still available.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas, which carried out the October 7 attacks on communities in southern Israel, are designated as terrorist entities by the government of Canada.
Hezbollah, however, is more powerful and dangerous.
It is a key political player in Lebanon’s government and its leaders claim it can field an army of 100,000 fighters. Western officials believe the militia has stockpiled thousands of long range missiles which are accurate and powerful enough to destroy skyscrapers in Israeli cities.
Iran’s foreign minister warned on October 16 that if the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues, “alliance forces” in the region could take “preventive” action.
In a briefing on Friday, Israeli Lt. Col. Richard Hecht indicated that even if the intensity of Hezbollah’s attacks increases, Israel will maintain its proportionate response.
“It’s a hot zone. Every time they shoot, we fight back,” he said.
Hecht said the calculus would change if Hezbollah uses what he called “long-range” missiles intended to strike beyond the border area.
IDF found tunnels connecting Lebanon and Israel
Israel’s military believes Hezbollah has built an elaborate network of tunnels around Lebanon, as has Hamas further south.
In late 2018 and early 2019, Israeli soldiers found six tunnels passing under the border into Israel, including one that had ventilation and electricity.
At the time, the IDF said He believed the tunnels were built specifically to facilitate a surprise attack on Israel and transport Hezbollah fighters into the country.
Nadav toured the tunnel after his discovery.
“I was surprised at how professional he was,” he said. “He’s terrifying when you look at him and realize the ability they have to come here.”
Tomorrow in Ottawa11:34Lebanese Canadians watch war creep closer to Lebanon’s southern borders
The brothers and their father have remained on the farm, but Nadav’s family has been evacuated to Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, just over an hour’s drive south, near Afula.
The university administration has offered dormitories for border families, as well as others who fled violence near Gaza to stay as long as necessary.
“We don’t know how long we’ll be here. I think more than two weeks,” Nadav’s wife Idan told our team during a visit to her family’s bedroom.
“We have a conflict with Hezbollah; we don’t feel like we have a conflict with the Lebanese people.”
Idan says she speaks to her husband several times a day, and especially after reports of cross-border attacks.
“I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve heard from him that he’s afraid,” she said of Nadav.
Israel reinforces its presence on the border with Lebanon
While she and her children are safe and well cared for at university, Idan says she has mixed thoughts about leaving her farm.
“If everyone from the border goes to the center [of Israel]What would happen to the borders? So will the center become the new frontier?
Israel’s military presence along its northern border has increased significantly in recent days. Breaking: saw convoys of tanks and armored personnel carriers heading north on roads and reservist camps set up near the border.
“There’s definitely a lot more [military]” Adam said. He said he trusts the army to keep him and his farm safe, despite failing to do so in the case of the communities near Gaza that were savagely attacked on October 7.
“This is our land. This is where we live,” Nadav said.