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.



What Are the Implications of the Visit by 4 Arab Leaders to China?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Cairo in January. (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Cairo in January. (Egyptian Presidency)
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What Are the Implications of the Visit by 4 Arab Leaders to China?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Cairo in January. (Egyptian Presidency)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Cairo in January. (Egyptian Presidency)

The leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia are conducting a visit to China this week to attend the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing announced on Monday.

From Tuesday to Saturday, the presidents will “pay state visits to China and attend the opening ceremony of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, diplomats and experts in Chinese affairs said the participation of Arab heads of state was aimed at conveying a message about efforts to strengthen relations with China, which in return is seeking to engage more in political affairs related to the Middle East.

According to the Chinese statement, the Arab delegation includes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Tunisian President Kais Saied and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During a press conference, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Deng Li said China’s President Xi Jinping will attend the Forum and deliver a speech on Thursday, adding that he will hold separate talks with the four Arab leaders to discuss bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues of common interest.

Former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Ambassador Ezzat Saad told Asharq Al-Awsat that Chinese-Arab relations have witnessed a boom in recent years, specifically since Xi came to power in 2013.

“There are about 12 Arab countries that currently maintain comprehensive strategic partnership relations with China,” he said, noting that Chinese investments in Arab countries almost reached $250 billion dollars, while the volume of Chinese trade with Arab countries is close to half a trillion dollars.

He interpreted the high-level Arab participation as “a message to the West, reflecting the development of Arab relations with eastern powers, such as China and Russia, in light of those countries’ respect for the United Nations Charter and the rights of peoples to self-determination and non-interference in the affairs of others, in contrast to existing Western double-standard policy.”

Asian affairs expert at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs Diaa Helmy said China is interested in the region, demonstrated in its involvement in political issues and its effort to create “global balances”, in wake of the war on Gaza and the possibility of its spillover into the region and impacting international trade.

China is interested in joining the mediation efforts and help in taking just and urgent decisions to preserve peace and security in the Middle East, he added, noting China’s balanced position towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its support of legitimate Arab rights.