Lebanese farmer and minibus driver Abdallah Abdallah went back to his village near the Israeli border yesterday to find that weeks of bombing had badly damaged his house and destroyed his tractor.
“What can I say? Israel has always been criminal, it has always targeted our houses,” said Abdallah, 50, his face weary as he pointed to gaping holes in the walls of his two-storey home in Aitarun, just across from an Israeli military position.
Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah, but also Palestinian groups, raising fears of a broader conflagration.
Abdallah fled after the cross-border skirmishes began, and like others, timidly returned yesterday to inspect his home, under the incessant buzz of Israeli surveillance drones.
Few frontier residents said they intended to stay, fearing renewed violence after the end of the four-day truce between Israel and Hamas that began on Friday.
A source close to Hezbollah said that the group would adhere to the truce if Israel did.
“My tractor was destroyed and also the van I used to take the children in the area to school,” said Abdallah, a father of six.
The ground around his house was strewn with shrapnel, and burnt fruit trees stood in the garden.
Hezbollah says it has been acting in support of Hamas after the Palestinian movement’s October first week storming of Israel.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, and its retaliatory air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip has killed nearly 15,000 people, thousands of them children, according to the Hamas government of the Palestinian territory.
Across south Lebanon, houses with smashed walls, shattered windows or doors ripped off their hinges bear witness to the violence of recent weeks.
In some villages, Hezbollah has put up banners paying homage to its “martyrs” who have been killed.
The cross-border exchanges have killed 109 people in Lebanon, at least 77 of them fighters from the movement and 14 civilians, according to an AFP count.
The International Organisation for Migration says more than 55,000 people have fled their homes, mainly in south Lebanon, since the hostilities began.
Fatima Taha, 55, breathed a sigh of relief when she discovered her house in the village of Mais al-Jabal was mostly intact, with just a few broken windows.
“We came back when they announced the truce but everyone is afraid,” she said, picking lemons from a tree in her garden.
“Some people came just for the olive harvest but don’t want to stay” because they fear renewed bombing, she added.
In many villages near the border, authorities have put up signs asking residents not to use roads close to Israeli positions.
Yesterday, Israeli soldiers fired into the air to “frighten farmers” who were working on their land, according to Lebanon’s official National News Agency.
Authorities have also warned farmers against harvesting their olives near the border, fearing the harmful effects of what Lebanon says is the Israeli use of the incendiary substance white phosphorus.
The Israel military has denied using white phosphorus in Lebanon and Gaza. In Kfar Kila, just a few metres from the frontier, Yahya Ahmed, 62, inspected the damage at his cafe, whose front and windows had been smashed.
“I want to clean things up and put the tables outside. I can’t wait to sit here again,” he said near a large tree in the courtyard.
The 62-year-old, who has lived through previous conflicts in the area, decided to stay, despite the risks.
“It’s our country,” he said. “I won’t leave here.”
Lebanese farmer and minibus driver Abdallah Abdallah stands in front of his tractor destroyed by an Israeli strike as he inspects his damaged home in Aitaroun, southern Lebanon, yesterday.