Evacuees ask Biden to back Israeli military op if Lebanon doesn’t rein in Hezbollah

Lobby 1701, group representing northern residents, blasts ‘false sense of security’ provided by UN peacekeepers; says Oct. 7 should serve as warning of potential scenario in north

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Northern residents and their supporters call for better care from the state, in a protest at Amiad junction, northern Israel, December 26, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Northern residents and their supporters call for better care from the state, in a protest at Amiad junction, northern Israel, December 26, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

A group representing evacuees from northern communities on Wednesday penned a letter urging the Biden administration to support an Israeli military effort to push Hezbollah and other terror groups away from the Lebanese border, saying diplomatic means were ineffective in keeping the area safe.

Lobby 1701, which is named for the UN Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and which represents the some 60,000 displaced residents of northern Israel, said that the “horrific images of October 7” should serve as a warning of what could come to pass in the north if action isn’t taken, referencing Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel.

“Since October 7 Hezbollah has put an end to our daily lives here in northern Israel. Because of their daily missiles and UAV attacks that target our homes and communities, and the threat of many more, we were unwillingly forced to evacuate,” read the letter, which was addressed to US President Joe Biden, the National Security Council, the US ambassador to Israel, and members of Congress.

The border between Lebanon and Israel has seen daily exchanges of fire since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, raising fears of a broader conflagration. Tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from northern border towns, which have been repeatedly targeted by the Hezbollah terror group.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 called for the removal of armed personnel south of Lebanon’s Litani River, except for UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping mission, and the Lebanese army and state security forces. But the Iran-backed Hezbollah has entrenched itself for decades across much of southern Lebanon, where it enjoys strong support and has regularly launched rockets against Israel, while Beirut does nothing to rein in the group.

“For 17 years we have had to bear witness to how ineffective UNSCR 1701 is in the face of reality. Hezbollah never acted in accordance with the resolution and openly established military positions on the border — feet away from our homes. Meanwhile, UNIFIL has been providing a false sense of security, while allowing Hezbollah to rearm, prepare and plan its invasion into Israel. This has proven especially true over the past three years,” said the letter.

Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment on the outskirts of the border town of Marwahin in southern Lebanon, on December 26, 2023. (AFP)

The group added, “If Lebanon is unable to properly implement UNSCR 1701 to the extent that we deserve and demand, to provide a basic sense of security, we will relentlessly pressure our government to solve this issue through military means, and we request your full support. This is not a threat, nor is it a warning.”

The letter said the situation they’re in would be unacceptable to any country, and urged Washington to understand that none of the residents can return home as long as terror groups remained on the border.

Biden and his administration should give “its full support to the government of Israel to act with the necessary force,” it read.

Nisan Zeevi, co-founder of Lobby 1701, told The Algemeiner Jewish publication that the failure of the UN resolution “left us with no choice but to demand genuine security through a Hezbollah-free buffer zone.”

“We refuse to return to our homes without concrete assurances of safety. We demand a change of the present reality: From a buffer zone within Israel to a buffer zone within Lebanon,” he said. “The time for diplomatic resolutions has passed. October 7 showed the whole world what these jihadi organizations are capable of, and our safety demands a clear and resolute stance against terrorism.”

While acknowledging Biden’s support for Israel since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, he stressed that the United States could not solely “decide the future of me and my family.”

Jerusalem has expressed openness to a diplomatic solution to the violence in the north, but has increasingly warned that if the international community does not push Hezbollah — which, like Hamas, is sworn to Israel’s destruction — away from the border through diplomatic means, it will take action.

The US has urged Israel not to escalate the conflict on the northern front.

File: US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)

According to a Wall Street Journal report Saturday, Biden managed to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off a preemptive strike against Hezbollah on October 11, while IAF planes were in the air.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the claim, asserting that Netanyahu decided after October 7 that Israel’s first priority would be to focus on the southern front and that this position was adopted by the war cabinet.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers. There have also been several rocket attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 129 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 16 Palestinian terror operatives, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 17 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

The war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

As Israel launched a military campaign, including a ground incursion, to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza and release the hostages, it also rushed forces to the north as a precaution against Hezbollah mimicking the Hamas attack.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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