Former members of the Southern Lebanese Army residing in Israel are not surprised. From their perspective, the unfolding of events could have been foretold.
A former SLA officer, who fought alongside Israel, told Ynet: “The fighting in Lebanon will be long, but it is part of the price of a six-year absence of the Israeli army from Lebanon.”
The man, who refused to reveal his identity, partook in many battles against Hizbullah. “The combat can only end when Hassan Nasrallah is no longer relevant. Hizbullah must be disarmed and driven towards the Litani River.
To the former officer, who now lives in Nahariya and whose home is in the line of Katyusha fire, it is entirely clear what Israel must do.
“The IDF was in Lebanon for many years and knows how Hizbullah operates. We cannot repeat the mistake of the United States in Iraq in the 90s, when it surrendered to international pressure and called off the fighting before Saddam Hussein was captured or assassinated, which led to another escalation before he was toppled 14 years later,” he said.
Some 350 families from south Lebanon took refuge in Israel when the IDF withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000 and are currently scattered throughout Nahariya, Maalot, Kiryat Shmona and Tiberias in the north.
Most of the adults opened private businesses, and their children were absorbed into the public school system. They too, like the rest of Israel’s citizens, are experiencing the war in the north.
'The price of leaving Lebanon'
Marlene Abu-Raad from Maalot, who is considered one of the leaders of the struggle of the SLA families in the north, told Ynet: “Like every citizen who lives in the north and on the front lines, we are experiencing the Katyusha and mortar shell attacks. Six years of transferring weapons under the open eyes of Syria gave Hizbullah great power."
"The IDF is doing the right thing and must continue fighting until it stops the reign of this terror organization on Lebanon. Today we are paying the price of leaving Lebanon,” she said.
Abu-Raad pointed an accusatory finger at the Lebanese government.
“Until lately it was filled with people who only cared about their position and honor. Residents of the south lived in fear that their families would be murdered by Hizbullah gangs. Even the present prime minister, Fouad Siniora, who was democratically elected, has spoken a lot until now but does very little," she said.
"Unfortunately the ones paying the price are the residents," she added. "In every war civilians are hurt by mistakes their government makes, and that is what is happening in this case in Lebanon.”
Other former SLA fighters also back the IDF’s operations, which in their view could have been evaded if the withdrawal from Lebanon had been carried out otherwise.
These days, they see themselves as an inseparable part of the State of Israel. They take cover in bomb shelters with their small children, fear for their lives, and hope that someone in the upper echelons of the government in Beirut tells Nasrallah and his cronies to step aside and allow Lebanon, one-and-a-half years after the Syrian army left its territory, to finally fly the flag of democracy.