Empty Villages in Southern Lebanon and Israeli Destruction Along Border

Emergency responders dig through the rubble of a building after an Israeli strike on a house in the Lebanese town of Marjayoun on April 5, 2024, during a cross-border exchange between Lebanon and Israel. (Photo by Rabih DAHER / AFP)
Emergency responders dig through the rubble of a building after an Israeli strike on a house in the Lebanese town of Marjayoun on April 5, 2024, during a cross-border exchange between Lebanon and Israel. (Photo by Rabih DAHER / AFP)
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Empty Villages in Southern Lebanon and Israeli Destruction Along Border

Emergency responders dig through the rubble of a building after an Israeli strike on a house in the Lebanese town of Marjayoun on April 5, 2024, during a cross-border exchange between Lebanon and Israel. (Photo by Rabih DAHER / AFP)
Emergency responders dig through the rubble of a building after an Israeli strike on a house in the Lebanese town of Marjayoun on April 5, 2024, during a cross-border exchange between Lebanon and Israel. (Photo by Rabih DAHER / AFP)

Lebanese resident Mohammed, 37, took advantage of a recent funeral announcement in his hometown of Khiam to return after leaving five months ago. He felt safer joining the funeral procession from Nabatieh, despite Israeli drones overhead.

His short visit of about two hours revealed extensive damage from Israeli airstrikes, leaving him in tears at the sight of his neighbor’s destroyed home.

Similar experiences are shared by visitors to southern Lebanon’s border region, where towns and homes have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and airstrikes.

Mohammed, like many, considers himself lucky to have left his house, seeing it as a necessary step to protect against ongoing attacks that don’t differentiate between civilians and others.

Compared to neighboring villages, Khiam’s destruction is relatively mild, with places like Aita al-Shaab suffering the worst.

According to a volunteer with an international relief organization, Kfar Kila has seen over 400 homes damaged. The destruction extends to Aita al-Shaab, where entire residential blocks have been leveled by Israeli airstrikes over the past six months.

Since Oct. 8, the Israeli military has stepped up attacks on villages and border towns, moving from artillery fire to drone strikes and aerial bombings from fighter jets.

Official sources in southern Lebanon report that “more than 4,000 attacks have hit 23 towns directly along the border with Israel since Oct. 8.”

Nearby towns deeper into Lebanon have also faced airstrikes and artillery fire, but less frequently.

A report by the UN Development Program in Lebanon last December found that over 90 villages were targeted, with some attacks hitting empty homes and facilities.

Exact numbers of homes destroyed or damaged are hard to come by due to ongoing fighting, preventing official surveys.

However, initial estimates suggest over 1,200 homes have been completely destroyed, with about 5,000 suffering partial damage. The true extent of the damage won't be known until officials can conduct thorough assessments.



Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war cabinet Monday, a move that consolidates his influence over the Israel-Hamas war and likely diminishes the odds of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Netanyahu announced the step days after his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, withdrew from the three-member war cabinet. Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as a more moderate voice.

Major war policies will now be solely approved by Netanyahu's security cabinet — a larger body that is dominated by hard-liners who oppose the US-backed ceasefire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

Netanyahu is expected to consult on some decisions with close allies in ad-hoc meetings, said an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

These closed-door meetings could blunt some of the influence of the hard-liners. But Netanyahu himself has shown little enthusiasm for the ceasefire plan and his reliance on the full security cabinet could give him cover to prolong a decision.

Here’s key background about the war cabinet, and what disbanding it means for ceasefire prospects:

Why did Gantz join and then quit the war cabinet? The war cabinet was formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel when Gantz, an opposition party leader, joined with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a show of unity.

At the time, Gantz demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

But Gantz left the cabinet earlier this month after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza.

He said he was fed up with a lack of progress bringing home the dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He accused Netanyahu of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. He called on Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas rule in Gaza.

When Netanyahu did not express support for the plan, Gantz announced his departure. He said that “fateful strategic decisions” in the cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

How will Israel's wartime policies likely be changed? The disbanding of the war cabinet only further distances Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Months of ceasefire talks have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders. Both Israel and Hamas have been reluctant to fully endorse a US-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort of the decimated territory.

Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security cabinet, some of whom oppose ceasefire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Gantz's departure, Israel's ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war cabinet. Monday's move could help keep Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. Netanyahu's critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government's failures on Oct. 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister's popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”