Exchange of Fire Drives Women, Children Out of South Lebanon Border Towns

The square in the town of Kafr Kila, opposite the Israeli settlement of Metula, appears almost devoid of activity (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The square in the town of Kafr Kila, opposite the Israeli settlement of Metula, appears almost devoid of activity (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Exchange of Fire Drives Women, Children Out of South Lebanon Border Towns

The square in the town of Kafr Kila, opposite the Israeli settlement of Metula, appears almost devoid of activity (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The square in the town of Kafr Kila, opposite the Israeli settlement of Metula, appears almost devoid of activity (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Bilal, a Lebanese engineer, decided to move his family from Lebanon’s southern border town of Aita Shaab to Tyre on the second day of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The war is now in its third week. Tensions have risen along the Lebanon-Israel border, where Hezbollah members are exchanging fire with Israel.

For now, those exchanges remain limited to a handful of border towns and Hezbollah and Israeli military positions on both sides.

Bilal commutes daily from the city of Tyre to his hometown to continue his work.

“I head out in the morning from Tyre to Aita and return in the evening,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He added that there is no room for fear as long as the course of the battle continues within the conflict zones.

However, at the same time, he states that he managed to safeguard his small family and his two newborn children from the sounds of the shells.

Like the circumstances of many, Bilal’s situation mirrors that of numerous others.

Many have relocated their families to safer areas in Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre.

They return to their villages in the morning and leave in the evening to continue their work.

Residents of the border region say that Syrian workers are the only ones who have completely evacuated.

As for the inhabitants of the border villages, approximately 20% of them have returned.

Most of them leave the villages in the evening, but in the morning, they resume their work in agriculture, livestock farming, and other sectors.

Asharq Al-Awsat conducted visits to several border villages in southern Lebanon, and the situation does not appear normal.

In the village of Kafr Kila, overlooking the border, the town is nearly devoid of women and children, except for around 20 households whose residents either cannot leave due to their financial circumstances or their involvement in local jobs.

“However, the town’s youth have not abandoned it, prepared for any emergency, and the situation has not reached a point of permanent departure yet,” as per Mohammed, who is currently residing in Kafr Kila.

Not far away, a sense of confusion prevails in the town of Khiam.

After approximately 90% of its population fled to neighboring villages and Beirut over the past week, today, 20% of them are returning.

“The situation is expected to prolong, possibly for more than a month,” said Abbas, who owns a local grocery store.

“We can't stay away from our homes given the economic reality outside Khiam. We've returned to work, even at a slower pace. Those who remained steadfast here, whether locals or others, deserve our support for what they’re enduring,” added Abbas.

“We have some of the necessary supplies like chicken and basic groceries that the residents of nearby towns lack since most of the large stores, groceries, and bakeries have closed there,” he explained.

In Qlaiaa, the Christian town that provided refuge for Shiite residents who fled during the 2006 war, there’s no room for further displacement this time around.

“The circumstances are different now, and we have no available rental homes,” said Charbel, a Qlaiaa local.

Life in Qlaiaa seems relatively normal. Some farmers have begun the olive harvesting season, and local olive oil mills have opened their doors, producing olive oil.

However, Charbel does not hide the fact that only about forty families from the original town population remain permanently.

The rest have left for Beirut, fearing a repeat of the July 2006 war.

“No one knows the consequences, and live fire continues to be heard, leaving fear within homes,” Charbel told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The town, where the Lebanese Forces party holds substantial influence, strongly opposes any missile launches from its vicinity.

Locals believe that launching missiles from outside the town towards Israel would jeopardize the stability of the people who refuse to forcibly push some villages into the war.



Has the West Succeeded in Containing Houthi Red Sea Attacks?

This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
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Has the West Succeeded in Containing Houthi Red Sea Attacks?

This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)
This handout photo released by the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) shows US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group 2 (CSG2), deployed to support maritime security in the Middle East region, flying over the Red Sea on June 11, 2024. (US Navy/AFP)

The US and western powers appear “incapable” of containing the attacks by the Houthis in Yemen against commercial ships in the Red Sea eight months after the Iran-backed militias started launching their operations.

The Houthis have been carrying out drone and missile strikes on shipping lanes since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Israel's war in Gaza.

The US, UK and European powers have since dispatched missions to the region to counter these attacks with apparent little success as the Houthis have upped their operations, with their strikes even reaching the Mediterranean.

Dr. Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen's Information Ministry, said the West still wrongly believes that the Houthis can be “rehabilitated” and employed to combat terrorism.

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said in April that a military solution was not possible to resolve the problem in Yemen.

Ghallab added that the US, West and even China have “all failed” in containing the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and their threats to international navigation.

“The Houthis are a suicideal phenomenon that is more dangerous than ISIS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. These groups did not threaten international trade the way the Houthis are doing now. In spite of this, the West is still incapable of taking firm decisions,” he went on to say.

The Houthis are labeled as “reckless”, not “terrorist”, when they violate the interests of the Yemeni people and the entire world, he lamented.

“The Americans have a blind spot in handling the Yemeni file. They are still following Obama’s approach and favoring Iran’s agents in the region,” Ghallab stressed.

The Americans and UK have carried out around 530 strikes against the Houthis since January, leaving 58 of their members dead and 86 injured, according to the militias.

The Houthi attacks have so far hit 27 ships, sinking two.

Ghallab wondered why western powers have yet to strike the Houthi command and control centers. The US is only targeting command and control centers from where the rockets are being fired, but they have yet to attack critical Houthi locations.

Have the western powers struck a deal with the Houthis as part of a plan to legitimize them in Yemen and turn them into a partner with all national powers? he asked.

He dismissed the possibility, stressing that the Houthis are extorting the Arab coalition, legitimate Yemeni government and international community.

Moreover, he warned that the world is facing in the Houthis “an organized and professional terrorist” group, meanwhile, “no one is prepared to support the legitimate powers in Yemen to end the Iran-made crime in the country.”

“The world remains blind when it comes to Yemen. Yes, the Houthis may be claiming victories now, but, at the end of the day, they will be defeated,” he remarked.

Asked about the best way to confront the Houthis, he replied: “The answer may be impossible, but it is simple. We have a real force on the ground in Yemen, not just in regions held by the legitimate government, but in Hodeidah, Saada and Sanaa. Everyone there is looking for salvation from the Houthis.”

“Are foreign powers prepared to support the real forces so that a Yemeni state can be formed?” he wondered, while noting that the West “is opposed to the idea of freedom and revolution in Yemen.”

“This is a western problem, not a Russian or Chinese one. This isn’t a conspiracy,” he went on to say. “Rather, the West is strategically blind to the situation.”