Unable to back down, Israel and Hezbollah move closer to all-out war

By lucy williamson, Reporting from the Israel-Lebanon border

BBCDavid Kamari bbc

“Every day, every night: bombs. (It’s a) problem,” David Kamari told the BBC.

A full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah would be ‘a catastrophe’, says UN Secretary-General. But for David Kamari, who lives under fire almost daily on the Israeli side of the border, it would be a solution.

Last month, a Hezbollah rocket fired from Lebanon landed in his front yard in the border town of Kiryat Shmona, cracking his house in several places and littering it with debris.

He points out the gaping holes where shrapnel tore through the walls, missing him by inches. And then to the hills above us, where Hezbollah-controlled territory begins.

“Every day, every night: bombs. (It’s a) problem,” he said. “And I was born here. If you live here for one night, you’ll go crazy.”

David still lives in his rubble-strewn house, with pieces of shrapnel tangled in the remains of his television. Outside is the blackened relic of his car, burned by the fire that devastated his front yard after the rocket hit.

Most of the population of Kiryat Shmona was evacuated after the Hamas attacks on October 7, when Hezbollah rockets began raining down in support of its Palestinian ally.

David is one of the few who stayed. “I’ve lived here 71 years,” he said. “I won’t go. I was in the army, I’m not afraid.”

Your solution? “War with Hezbollah; kill Hezbollah,” she says.

David's burned car.

David’s property has been hit by a rocket: “If you live here for one night, you’ll go crazy.”

Israel has been fighting back hard Hezbollahkilling senior commanders and attacking targets further inside Lebanon.

Hezbollah has sent increased barrages of drones and missiles across the border this month, and threats on both sides have increased. Earlier this week, the group released drone images of military facilities and civilian infrastructure in the Israeli city of Haifa.

The tough talks have long been part of a mutual deterrence strategy, with both sides seen as fearing all-out war.

But as the tit-for-tat conflict continues and more than 60,000 Israelis remain evacuated from their homes in the north, there are signs that both Israel’s leaders and its citizens are willing to support military options to drive Hezbollah from the border. through force.

Kiryat Shmona Mayor Avichai Stern shows me the spot where a rocket landed on a street near his office last week.

“I don’t think there is any country in the world that would accept daily attacks on its citizens,” said Mayor Stern.

“And sitting here like lambs to the slaughter, waiting for the day when we are attacked like we saw in the south, that is not acceptable. Everyone understands that the choice is between war now or war later.”

The dangerous stalemate here depends largely on the war Israel is waging more than 100 miles south of Gaza.

A ceasefire there would also help calm tensions in the north, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains both conflicts, mortgaged by his promise to allied far-right governments to destroy Hamas before ending the war. Gaza War.

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

“The idea that we can destroy Hamas or make Hamas disappear is misleading to the public,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israeli television.

On the Lebanese side of the border, where more than 90,000 people have been evacuated, the mood among those who have remained is equally somber.

Israeli EPA airstrike against LebanonEPA

Israel has been attacking southern Lebanon with airstrikes

Fatima Belhas lives about seven kilometers from the Israeli border, near Jbal el Botm.

At first he shook with fear when Israel bombed the area, he says, but he has since accepted the bombings and no longer thinks about leaving.

“Where would I go?” she asked. “(Others) have relatives in other places. But how can I impose myself on someone like that? We don’t have money.”

“Maybe it’s better to die at home with dignity,” he said. “We have grown up resisting. We will not be expelled from our land like the Palestinians.”

Hussein Aballan recently left his village of Mays al Jbal, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Kiryat Shmona, on the Lebanese side of the border.

Life there had become impossible, he said, with communications and electricity erratic and almost no stores functioning.

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

But he supported Hezbollah’s attack on Israel.

“Everyone in the south (of Lebanon) has lived through years of aggression, but they have come out stronger,” he said. “Only through resistance are we strong.”

damage in southern lebanon

BBC saw damage in southern Lebanon from Israeli gunfire in May

As difficult as this border conflict is for the people on both sides, a full-scale war would take the crisis to a different scale.

Some Beirut residents are keeping their suitcases packed and passports ready, in case of an all-out conflict, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said this week that no place in Israel would be spared.

Hezbollah is a well-armed and well-trained army, backed by Iran; Israel, a sophisticated military power that has the United States as an ally.

A full-scale war is likely to be devastating for both sides.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it would be a “catastrophe that goes (…) beyond imagination.”

The problem for Israel is how to stop the rockets and get its people to return to the abandoned areas in the north of the country.

The problem for Hezbollah is how to stop the rockets when its ally, Hamas, is under attack by Israeli forces in Gaza.

The longer this situation continues, the more the risks of miscalculation increase and the more pressure is put on the Israeli government to resolve the situation.

The Hamas attacks of October 7 changed security calculations in Israel. Many of those who have homes near the border – and some of those in positions of power – say that the type of agreement reached with Hezbollah in the past is no longer enough.

Tom Perry

Tom Perry says Israel’s leaders have failed and should resign

Tom Perry lives on Kibbutz Malkiya, right in front of the Lebanese border fence. He was drinking with friends when a Hezbollah rocket hit outside his home earlier this month.

“I think the Secretary-General’s warning is correct: (the war) will be a catastrophe for the area,” he said.

“But unfortunately it seems we have no choice. No agreement lasts forever, because they want death for us. We are doomed to wars forever, unless Israel can eliminate Hezbollah.”

Israel’s leaders lost all credibility after the October 7 attacks, he says, and have no strategy to achieve peace.

“They need to resign, all of them. The biggest failure of our military and our country was on October 7, and they were our leaders. We don’t need these leaders.”

Demands for political change are likely to increase as Israel’s conflicts end.

Many believe Israel’s prime minister is playing for time: caught between growing demands for a ceasefire in Gaza and growing support for a war in the north.

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