newsIsrael at War

Evacuees from northern Israel demand elimination of Hezbollah threat

“We've been unable to return to our homes for more than seven months. We won’t go back until we know we're safe,” said Raphael Salve, co-founder of Lobby 1701.

A protest tent encampment adjacent to the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, set up by evacuees from northern Israel, May 27, 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Raphael Salve.
A protest tent encampment adjacent to the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, set up by evacuees from northern Israel, May 27, 2024. Photo: Courtesy of Raphael Salve.

Evacuees from Israel’s north set up a tent encampment on Tuesday outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem to protest their ongoing displacement due to daily attacks by the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“We’ve been unable to return to our homes for more than seven months. We won’t go back until we know we’re safe,” Raphael Salve, co-founder of Lobby 1701, a group representing displaced people from northern towns and villages, told JNS. 

Lobby 1701 is named after the U.N. Security Council Resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War and mandated that Hezbollah terrorists remain north of the Litani River, around 18 miles from the Israeli border.

The Lebanese Shi’ite group has since entrenched itself along the frontier, violating the resolution.

“We don’t want there to be an agreement with Hezbollah. We want a full-fledged operation and intense military pressure,” said Salve, who has relocated from Kiryat Shmona to Jerusalem with his wife and five children. 

Over 60,000 residents from more than 40 northern communities located within 6.2 miles of the Lebanon border have been internally displaced since Hezbollah joined Hamas’s war against the Jewish state following the Gaza-based terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre.

Hezbollah attacks have killed more than 20 Israelis and led to extensive damage to property.

Salve said that demonstrators will remain in the encampment until the Israeli government takes serious steps to eliminate the threat.

The Israeli government on Monday unveiled a 3.5 billion-shekel ($950 million) plan to rehabilitate Israel’s north. Its short-term goals include: 1) increasing security for the northern communities and population under threat; 2) providing assistance for defending and unifying those communities; and 3) offering aid for northern businesses and strengthening employment security.

Its long-term aim is to reinforce the economy of the north and enhance the well-being of its populace. One element specified in the plan is the creation of an innovation and food-tech ecosystem in the area, as well as the establishment of a university in Kiryat Shmona.

“We will scream and shout so that nobody forgets the north. It feels like everybody has forgotten us,” Rita Benyair—who together with Matan Davidian, represents the northern town of Shlomi at Lobby 1701—told JNS. 

“They put us in small hotels and want us to take care of ourselves. They forgot about our kids’ education. They forgot about those who had to close their businesses. We want answers. It’s about time,” Benyair added.

After Hamas’s Oct. 7 murderous assault, Benyair relocated to the Dan Boutique Jerusalem Hotel, along with 65 families from Shlomi.  

“I’m a mother of soldiers. One of them fought in Gaza for three months. My daughter is a soldier in the Israeli Air Force, and I have a 14-year-old son who’s supposed to go to school,” she said. “We don’t even know what we’ll be doing in September—whether to put him in school in Jerusalem or somewhere else. No one told us.”

During a visit to the Israel Defense Forces Northern Command headquarters last ThursdayNetanyahu said that the military had eliminated “hundreds” of Hezbollah operatives in Southern Lebanon.

“We have detailed, important and even surprising plans,” the premier told IDF troops. “But I will not share these plans … with the enemy,” he said, adding that the IDF is “constantly in action on the northern front.”

Benyair explained that her community is very anxious to return, but cannot risk going through an Oct. 7-like invasion emanating from Lebanon. 

“We can’t close a deal with Hezbollah,” she said. “We did that in the south and look how it turned out.  Shlomi is right on the border. We are terrified of the tunnels they built into Israel.”

She continued, “We feel like refugees. How is that normal? We are regressing instead of moving forward. We have to start going on the offensive. We have a good army, good soldiers; the government must decide to do something. “

In conclusion, she declared, “We will sit in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. We want others to come and support us. This problem is not just for the north; it’s for everyone. We won’t move until we get our answers.”

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