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    5. Lebanese relatives vow to take revenge on Israel for rocket ..


    Lebanese relatives vow to take revenge on Israel for rocket attacks on innocent families

    Civil Defense members carry the coffin of one of the seven members of the Berjawi family killed in an IDF airstrike through the town center of Nabatiyeh Photo: OLIVER MARSDEN FOR THE TELEGRAPH

    Ali Debs, commander of Hezbollah's elite forces in Redwan, narrowly avoided being hit by a rocket aimed at his car to kill him just a week earlier when bombs rained down again.

    Fire by Israeli fighters, they crashed into residential building where he was in Nabatiyah, killing him and two other Hezbollah fighters.

    On the floor above, Hussein Berjawi was hosting relatives for dinner. Seven were killed, the youngest seven years old.

    It was the bloodiest day for Lebanese civilians since the war began on October 8, when Hezbollah opened a “support front” for Hamas, forcing Israel to fight on its two borders.


    Moreover, the Israelis have had some of their deepest missile strikes into Lebanon so far, some 22 miles from the border.

    The attack was allegedly retaliation for an attack the previous evening on the northern Israeli city of Safed that left one person dead. An Israeli soldier.

    A neighbor of the Berjawi family stands outside a destroyed apartment that was the target of an IDF strike in Nabatiyah, February 15. Photo: OLIVER MARSDEN FOR TELEGRAPH

    But they also come as Israel in recent weeks has stepped up a campaign of targeted killings of Hezbollah and Hamas commanders inside Lebanon, with several drone strikes dragging the fighting deep into Lebanese territory and far from the front lines.

    On at a funeral last weekend, the coffins carrying the family's charred bodies passed through a sea of ​​mourners.

    The crowd was stoic. The deaths sent them into war mode.

    “War is coming,” said Hasan Haidar, a relative of the slain family. “No matter what [Hassan] Nasrallah decides to do, Israel knows it will pay for it,” he said, referring to the Hezbollah leader. “We will protect the South at any cost.”

    Before the public funeral, the family mosque was overcrowded, the silence broken only by screams. The coffins remained closed due to their mutilated bodies as the community came to pray over them.

    The strikes here, over the Litani River, go beyond the normal rules of combat between two sworn enemies. The scale of civilian deaths has shocked and disturbed Lebanon.

    “Labaika Jnub!” people chanted as coffins were laid in a public square in Nabatiyah, a city that enjoys overwhelming support from Hezbollah. “We are here and ready to defend the south,” they vowed.

    Lebanese analysts say the escalation is “under control… for now” as Israel lacks international support for a major offensive in Lebanon. But drone strikes deep into Lebanon have reignited fears, even among those convinced the conflict will not escalate.

    Western diplomats said the escalating Israeli strikes were “testing” Hezbollah's restraint.

    As the US and France rush to find a diplomatic solution, Israel has increasingly threatened to attack deep into Beirut if an agreement is not reached, in while Hezbollah repeats that there will be no agreement until Israel stops bombing Gaza.

    De-escalation efforts get stuck in an existential confrontation. Although both countries showed restraint and lack of desire for full-scale war, they also continued to raise the stakes. The margin for error is becoming ever smaller.

    In Jdeidet Marjayoun, a Christian village located between the borders of Israel and Syria, life has come to a standstill. Unlike the villages surrounding it, Hezbollah and its allies have not brought in weapons to carry out attacks, according to residents, and it remains unscathed from daily clashes, but the village is on the brink – just five miles from the Israeli village Metula – she saw the Israeli tanks approaching before.

    Young women from the Amal Scouts line up and carry a photograph of Ghadir Tarhini, one of the seven murdered members of the Berjawi family. Photo: OLIVER MARSDEN FOR TELEGRAPH

    “This is not [Lebanon's] war; we should not be included in it.” in this war,” said 47-year-old Christian Chadi, sitting in his empty bakery on Friday. “What's happening in the Gaza Strip is terrible, but we shouldn't be part of it.” Still, he said, they have no control over what happens.

    Some other predominantly Christian villages in Marjayoun tried to set up roadblocks early in the war to prevent Hezbollah and its allies from moving weapons, he said. They were quickly dismantled. “If they want to come here, they will come here. Who could stop them? Us? Army?” he laughed.

    It would be hard to find anyone in Lebanon who isn't horrified by Israel's war on Gaza, but relations between religions here in the predominantly Shiite south are long and complex. For some people, opposition to Hezbollah's involvement is stronger than not wanting to live through another conflict.


    LIVE: Latest news about crisis in the Middle East Read more

    Lebanon was once the main base of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which carried out attacks that triggered several Israeli incursions that led to the birth of Hezbollah. In 1982, when Jdeidet Marjayoun was last invaded, Christian militias in Lebanon joined forces with Israel to drive out the PLO, carrying out disgraceful massacres of Palestinian and Shia communities.

    Now, in coordination with Hezbollah, for the first time in more than 20 years later, Hamas and other Palestinian groups are again launching attacks from Lebanon.

    The sound of approaching artillery echoed through the valley.

    Earlier in the day, strikes hit five villages in Lebanon, and an hour later Hezbollah would carry out a series of strikes on various villages in northern Israel. It's been a bit of a slow day at this point in the conflict.

    In the predominantly Shiite south, there is a black-and-white split, one local says: People are either desperate to fight Israel or desperate to keep the situation from escalating. further.

    Members of the Amal Movement and Civil Defense carry the coffin of one of the seven members of the Berjawi family. Photo: OLIVER MARSDEN FOR THE TELEGRAPH

    Unlike on the other side of the border, for the Lebanese civilian population there are no humanitarian raid sirens, no sophisticated air defense system, no bunkers.

    “You will be eaten by a drone within 90 seconds,” warned a local journalist as we tried to advance a couple of miles to one of the villages of Marjayun, which had been damaged in recent days.

    Like many, Chadi, a former Lebanese intelligence officer, could not afford to flee to Beirut or to safer areas outside Hezbollah's control even if he wanted to. The depth of Lebanon's four-year economic crisis has meant his pension has been cut to $140 a month.

    The problems lie deeper and are a source of concern for Lebanon's security: the weak Lebanese state, with neither an empowered cabinet nor a president, is itself as cash-strapped as most of its civilians. It is extremely ill-prepared for a major war.

    The head of the civil defense unit in Marjayoun, Anis Abla, fell into despair due to a lack of resources. His men were constantly putting out white phosphorus fires, wearing “at best” N-95 masks, which everyone wore during Covid.

    Recommended< /p>Israel carries out deepest airstrikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. Read more

    UN peacekeepers have donated gas masks, but because the Lebanese government refuses to give more money, they can't afford new filters. They were only able to use it once.

    On Instagram, citizens are raising funds for medical kits to donate to teams working on the front line. The list of the most necessary things included scissors, tourniquets and oxygen masks.

    As Nasrallah ended his speech on Friday, vowing “blood for blood,” back in Nabatiyah his ardent supporters said they would put aside fear and welcome war to their doorstep.

    “Fear? There is nothing better than dying as a martyr,” said 17-year-old Ali, highlighting the problem at the heart of Israel’s conflicts with its enemies: Ideologies cannot be destroyed by bombing. Each round of violence produces thousands of more vulnerable and angry martyrs.

    Nowhere was this clearer than in the family home of a seven-year-old boy and his mother killed during the Nabatiyeh strike.

    Grabbing a photograph of Zainab, his mother, the teenage boy's legs gave way. how the coffins were taken out of the house for burial. His jaw was open, his cry silent as hundreds of people at her azza – a pre-burial ritual in the family home where people pay their respects – mourned their farewell. “Death to Israel,” he managed to scream, his body convulsing as he sobbed.

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