Lebanese border villagers say Israeli shells won’t push them off their land

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YATER, Lebanon -Residents of Lebanese border village of Yater said they would rebuild their town once clashes between Hezbollah and Israel end, saying Israel’s shelling of their homes would not push them off their land.

Heavily armed Hezbollah, which is part of an Iranian-backed regional alliance along with Gaza’s ruling Hamas, has been engaged in daily exchanges of fire with Israeli forces along the frontier since war broke out between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7.

Several homes in Yater, some seven kilometres from the Israeli-Lebanese border, lost windows and walls during Israeli shelling, pushing some residents to flee north while hardening the determination of others to stay put.

“I’m convinced now that we will never leave this land,” said Hiba, a 28-year-old mother whose home was hit by an Israeli shell on Sunday evening.

She and her five-year-old son were out visiting a relative when their home was hit.

“We were supposed to be here when this shell hit. This house has civilians, it has a child, it wasn’t an abandoned home,” Hiba said.

Hiba said her son was collecting rocks to rebuild the house.

“He knows Israel shelled (us) and that the house is destroyed, but he’s not afraid of Israel,” she said.

In the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s founding, some 700,000 Palestinians, half the Arab population of what was British-ruled Palestine, fled or were driven from their homes and have been denied return. Many ended up in Lebanon.

Taleb Kaddouh returned home one evening to find a shell had ripped through his house in Yater, causing havoc. Despite exchanges of fire in neighbouring villages, he started clearing out the house with his wife, rescuing what they could.

“They (Israel) destroyed this home before and I rebuilt it. I’ll restore it again – I’ll show them,” he said.

Thousands of people have fled Lebanese villages in the south or moved from the rural outskirts into the relative safety of larger towns.

But that’s not an option for Kaddouh.

“Of course we will stay here. This land is ours. Our grandparents and parents laboured here… My son will do the same,” he said. “Only death could make us leave.” REUTERS

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