Northern residents demand the IDF protect them from within Lebanon

As US, France seek political settlement with Hezbollah, mayors of northern Israeli border towns demand highly skeptical of any such agreement, demand army 'be present north of the border serve as buffer between us and Hezbollah'

Amid U.S. and French efforts to force a political settlement on Israel and Lebanon, which is supposed to keep Hezbollah away from the border, the mayors of northern border towns will meet on Friday with Northern Command head Major General Ori Gordin in a demand to bring an end to the terrorist organization's incessant shooting on their communities and to show greater resolve in view of the emerging security reality in the region since the outbreak of the war four months ago.
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"The State of Israel and the IDF made a big mistake by establishing a buffer area inside Israeli territory," explained Upper Galilee Regional Council Mayor Giora Zaltz. According to him, the army must move the security zone into Lebanese territory.
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ביקור מפקד פיקוד צפון, אלוף אורי גורדין באימון לקראת לחימה בצפון
ביקור מפקד פיקוד צפון, אלוף אורי גורדין באימון לקראת לחימה בצפון
Major General Ori Gordin (left)
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
"The IDF should be present north of the border to serve as a buffer between us and Hezbollah. After four months of evacuating the residents of the north, of Hezbollah taking charge of the fighting, the rules of the game must change. It is not right for the country and the army to say that we may continue in this reality for many months and it is not right for us as the residents of the north to accept that," he stressed.
In an extraordinarily extensive rocket barrage Thursday night, Hezbollah terrorists fired about 30 missiles from Lebanese territory toward Upper Galilee towns. Most of the projectiles fell in unpopulated areas while the rest were intercepted.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has stated on various occasions that while Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to an end to hostilities on the northern border, it is committed to the safety of its residents and is therefore prepared for a military option.
Gallant met this week with White House special envoy Amos Hochstein and emphasized the State of Israel's commitment to improving the security situation in the north, which includes the return of displaced residents to their homes after the removal of the threat of raids and direct fire from Lebanese territory.
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יואב גלנט בפגישה עם עמוס הוכשטיין
יואב גלנט בפגישה עם עמוס הוכשטיין
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and US envoy Amos Hochstein
(Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
Kiryat Shmona Mayor Avichai Stern said that more than 21,000 of his city's residents have been displaced from their homes to temporary apartments and hotels throughout the country and that he intends to ask Major General Gordin to promise that the residents will not return until security is restored.
"The army commanders should talk less and do more. We heard promises that they would return Lebanon to the Stone Age and a supposed 'red line' that I no longer see," said Stern, whose city has been bombarded daily and dozens of buildings have already been damaged since the beginning of the war.
Despite the cease-fire outline presented by foreign mediators to end hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the residents are still terrified. "The level of anxiety, fear and frustration among my residents has increased with a tremendous intensity. For two days now I have been receiving calls from hysterical residents, who are anxious that at a moment's notice, they will be asked to return to the north, while nothing is being done to handle the threat to our lives. Just this morning we got a reminder when the terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at Qiryat Shmona and injured soldiers," Stern told Ynet.
"Another agreement that relies on the UN and the Lebanese army is doomed to fail and is far from bringing security or a sense of security."
"My residents do not believe in any agreement, they are not stupid and understand that there is no reason for it to work as every agreement has not worked to this day. Another agreement that relies on the UN and the Lebanese army is doomed to fail and is far from bringing security or a sense of security. The concessions will only increase Hezbollah's appetite and its understanding that through terrorism and murder, it will achieve more," Stern said.
Gabi Naaman, the mayor of the Shlomi Council, said he was happy that Gordin was willing to meet with local leaders and hear out their concerns.
"I will ask the general to be our messenger to demand to strike at Hezbollah, eradicate and destroy the threat," he said. "I will make it clear that any agreement signed with Hezbollah means the preservation and protection of the terrorist organization and the betrayal of the residents of the north. Hezbollah seeks to destroy us, and we as a country must in no way believe it and make agreements with it."
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יאיר קראוס בפעילות מבצעית עם לוחמים בגבול לבנון
יאיר קראוס בפעילות מבצעית עם לוחמים בגבול לבנון
IDF soldiers operating on Israel-Lebanon border
(Photo: Effie Sharir)
The local leaders also expect the army to construct a new security paradigm for the day after the war in Lebanon. "After October 7, it became clear that first responders and the various security and defense components were a decisive factor in saving lives," said Amit Sofer, mayor of Merom HaGalil Regional Council. He demanded that Maj. Gen. Gordin "immediately return all the border towns under the responsibility of the Northern Command and make available all the security elements derived from this action."
Local mayors are also expected to ask Gordin for clarifications on the IDF's decision to reduce the number of combat soldiers stationed in their towns.
Zaltz said that despite the protest and opposition of some of the mayors, he believes that the army should leave only a small contingent in the towns. "I will ask the general to withdraw all the army forces allocated for activity in Lebanon from the towns and leave a professional military force whose sole mission is to protect the town."
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תיעוד מירי נ"ט על מטרות אזרחיות בכפר יובל
תיעוד מירי נ"ט על מטרות אזרחיות בכפר יובל
Footage of anti-tank missiles on Israeli border town
(Photo: Lobby 1701)
Meanwhile, members of Lobby 1701, comprised of northern residents, are fighting for the full implementation of the 1701 UN Resolution from 2006 and its application to counter Hezbollah's terrorist threats.
On Thursday, they went out on a signature campaign in the displaced persons' hotels throughout the country in which they warned against the emerging agreement. Activists claim that "according to media reports, the Israeli government is expected to sign a concessions and surrender agreement with Hezbollah. Even the issue of demilitarized territory until the Litany [River in Lebanon], as stipulated by the UN Security Council, was given up by the government."
The lobby statement stated "these are dramatic days for us and for the entire country. As long as the Israeli government is not ready to enforce the demilitarization of southern Lebanon, the next massacre is only a matter of time."
Meanwhile, security officials estimate that Hezbollah tried to install new weapons systems near the border in the last few weeks under the cover of the inclement winter weather and heavy fog.
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חיילי צה"ל בהר דוב
חיילי צה"ל בהר דוב
IDF soldiers vigilant in the face of threat
(Photo: Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
The IDF continued its offensive operations to neutralize the threat and engage enemy forces across the border, aiming to thwart any advantage-seeking by the organization. First responders in one of the border towns have heightened their vigilance and minimized exposure in areas visible from Lebanon, due to concerns over Hezbollah's capabilities in the current weather conditions.
On Thursday, Hezbollah anti-tank fire squads launched a number of missiles at several Israeli outposts, which resulted in the injury of three soldiers.
Last month, Hezbollah tried to attack soldiers under the cover of heavy fog at night. In the encounter, three terrorists infiltrated Israel near the Mount Dov area but were spotted by an IDF patrol that passed a few yards away from them. All three terrorists were killed in the ensuing firefight.
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