While the war in Gaza against Hamas is on track to become the bloodiest conflict in half a century in Israel, the escalation of war incidents on the border with Lebanon threatens to open a new front against the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia. The extension of hostilities from south to north is no small risk. The Lebanese guerrilla, which was almost stalemate in the battle it fought in 2006 against the Israeli army, has tens of thousands of militiamen hardened during a decade of war in Syria and more than 200,000 rockets aimed at the Jewish State.
“I’m not afraid. But we are on maximum alert and that here is quite impressive,” says Corporal Tomer, 26, in Buenos Aires-sounding Spanish, who declines to provide his last name. This reservist with an iridescent dark bun with blonde highlights, urgently mobilized along with 300,000 other young people last weekend, was speaking during the sandwich break when he was standing guard this Tuesday at the old Rosh Hanikra border post. “No one comes to visit the sea caves anymore,” he said in front of a mestizo landscape of tourist attractions and barbed wire barricades, in the language his grandmother—Argentine Jew—taught him after the family emigrated to Israel more than three decades ago. . “This has become a military security zone. Yesterday (Monday) the echo of the fighting could be heard a few kilometers away.”
At least six fighters died on Monday in the most serious incident recorded for 17 years on the Blue Line, the tense border that separates Lebanon from Israel under surveillance by UN peacekeepers. Two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, exiled in Lebanon who infiltrated into Israeli territory, lost their lives; an Israeli army officer who confronted them, and three Hezbollah militiamen in a retaliatory attack from Israeli helicopters.
The opposing sides have raised the enemy’s casualty toll, in the bloodiest day known since the end of the war in the summer of 2006. Then 1,300 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 165 Israelis, almost all of them, perished. military, in 33 days of combat. When the guns fell silent, 10,800 soldiers from 40 countries, including 600 Spaniards, from the international interposition force, were deployed to the border. The current commander of the Interim Nations Force for Lebanon (UNIFIL), Spanish General Aroldo Lázaro, has now called on the opposing parties to exercise maximum restraint and coordinate with the UN contingent to prevent a war escalation.
Israeli soldiers, this Tuesday near the border with Lebanon. Associated Press/LaPresse (APN)
The border between Lebanon and Israel includes disputed areas, such as the so-called Sheba farms, valleys and cliffs that Israel has occupied for 56 years along with the Syrian Golan Heights. Inside is the promontory from which the Israeli artillery projectile that took the life of the Spanish corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo, deployed in the UN force, left on January 28, 2015, near the town of Marjayun, headquarters of the Spanish UNIFIL contingent. Hezbollah launched new salvos of rockets this Tuesday morning, and the Israeli artillery responded by crushing the launching positions of the projectiles, near the towns of Blida and Meiss al Jabal. The exchange of fire occurred in the afternoon.
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At the old Rosh Hanikra border post, Israel’s concentration of forces and deployment of means is evident. Observation drones monitor the airspace with their unmistakable drone, while Navy boats and patrol boats seal the maritime divide. The presence of the massive Merkava IV battle tanks, troop transport vehicles and the deployment of reservist units shows that these were not simple maneuvers.
“I graduated five years ago after almost three years of service as a military medic,” Tomer recalled. “Then I spent a year traveling through Latin America, and now I was finishing my nursing studies,” he says, “but I belong to a combat unit and if they call me to defend my country I have to go wherever they call me. I could have been one of those attending the party held next to the Gaza border where Hamas carried out a massacre,” explained the Israeli soldier of Argentine origin.
At his side, Gideon El Minerch, a 56-year-old truck driver born into a Jewish family that emigrated to Israel from Morocco, distributed breaded meat sandwiches and cans of soft drinks to the soldiers at the old border post. “I’m not old enough to fight anymore, but I help as a volunteer where I can. When I leave here, I will have to go with my truck loaded with vegetables to Eilat (on the coast of the Red Sea),” he confesses his concern about having to cross one of the areas hardest hit by the rockets of the Islamic militias of Gaza. , about 200 kilometers south of Rosh Hanikra.
The towns in northern Israel closest to the Lebanese border have become ghost towns. Neighbors hide inside their houses or near air raid shelters, if they do not have safe rooms in their homes. With classes suspended since Monday, many families with minors have relocated with relatives in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
At the same time that tension is rising on the border between Israel and Lebanon, two countries that are still technically at war and do not recognize each other diplomatically, the battle group of the Gerald Ford aircraft carrier, the most powerful in the Navy, sails through nearby waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. of the United States. A senior Pentagon official cited by Reuters has already warned Hezbollah against making the “wrong decision” to open a second front against Israel.
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