Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday announced the establishment of a new directorate within the Defense Ministry that will focus on strengthening security along Israel’s northern front.
Israel’s northern communities have been pummeled by rocket fire and shelling carried out by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian groups during the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza.
In a statement following a situational assessment on Tuesday, Gallant announced that the directorate, dubbed Northern Horizon, will work to strengthen and improve both civil and security infrastructure in residential areas up to nine kilometers (5.6 miles) from the Lebanese border, allowing an opportunity for displaced residents to return home.
The directorate will work to ensure that civilian standby units receive improved training and weapons, and that communities are fortified with new gates, fences, lookout posts and a primary operation center with command capabilities.
Some 200,000 people from the north and south of Israel have been internally displaced since October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people, seizing some 240 hostages and destroying property across more than 20 different communities.
In response, Israel launched an aerial operation and subsequent ground campaign, vowing to eliminate Hamas and bring the hostages home.
At the IDF operated against Hamas in Gaza, repeated skirmishes with Hezbollah and other groups on the northern border led to the decision to evacuate residents from dozens of northern communities, with no indication when they will be able to return home.
“In light of the complexity in the north and our desire to create conditions to return residents to their homes, the first action that needs to be made is to take care of everything that happens in the communities; for their protection, for activity within them, for a normal life, for the protection of the bloc and the restoration of infrastructure,” Gallant said, and added that the project will be implemented alongside additional security measures.
The directorate will work in cooperation with local municipalities and the IDF, and decisions will be made following assessments of the security situation as it continues to develop.
It will aim to complete the work started in 2018 during the government’s Defender of the North project. Defender of the North was aimed at protecting public, institutional and private buildings up to nine kilometers away from the northern border.
Since the start of the war with Hamas in Gaza, the northern border has seen near-daily skirmishes as Hezbollah attempts to tie down troops with a steady stream of low-level clashes and attacks.
Since the cross-border exchanges began, six soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side, and 107 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, including at least 14 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Hezbollah has said that 79 of its members have been killed since the war’s outbreak in southern Lebanon.
Emanual Fabian contributed to this report.