EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Empty Israeli Towns Near Border with Lebanon; 60,000 Remain Refugees

The abandoned town of Shlomi, Israel, near the Lebanese border, evacuated since October du
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News

SHLOMI, Israel — Tens of thousands of Israelis remain refugees in their own country after attacks by Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist army, forced the evacuation of communities near the northern border in October.

Hezbollah, which sits near the Israeli border in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1707 of 2006, has been firing mortars, anti-tank missiles, rockets, and ballistic missiles at Israeli communities ever since Hamas, which is also backed by Iran, launched the October 7 terror attack in southern Israel.

As Breitbart News reported in October, Israel was forced to evacuate some 60,000 or so northern residents within four kilometers of the border.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initially responded to the Hezbollah attacks by targeting the sources of incoming fire, without escalating. More recently, it has carried out airstrikes sites deeper into Lebanon. On April 1, Israel killed the leading Iranian commander in the region, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, as well as another general and six other Iranian military officials in an airstrike on Damascus, Syria.

The Israeli media reported, and Breitbart News confirmed, that IDF commandos have already begun to operate inside Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah positions near the border and possibly preparing for a broader military invasion. Thus far, Israel is focusing on completing its mission of destroying Hamas in Gaza — and, this past weekend, responding to the massive missile and drone attack by Iran, which Israeli air defenses intercepted with a 99% success rate.

Breitbart News visited some of the border communities on Monday, escorted by Israeli soldiers in an area normally off-limits to journalists. Much of what was seen cannot be published.

The scenes of empty streets and homes were striking.

In the kibbutz — collective farm — of Rosh Hanikra, once a bustling community in the northwest corner of Israel, the only signs of life were the Israeli soldiers who patrol the area, as well as stray cats and a mascot dog.

Rosh Hanikra is a popular tourist attraction, as it sits near beautiful cliffs and caves along the Mediterranean coast. The kibbutz had also recently built a swimming pool for residents, which it had hoped to open by the summer.

Now, the grass in the community is overgrown, as the families wait, month after month, for news about when they might be able to return.

A view south from Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, empty since Israel was forced to evacuate northern communities due to fire from Hezbollah in Lebanon. April 15, 2024 (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)

Inside the town of Shlomi, a nearby community in northwest Israel, on Monday, the homes and streets were also empty, with weeds sprouting up alongside the roads.

One home had been badly damaged by a direct hit from a 240-mm mortar shell, carrying 20 kilograms of explosives.

An Israeli home, damaged by a 240mm Hezbollah mortar, in the northern town of Shlomi, near the border with Lebanon. April 15, 2024 (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)

The only sign of life was a tractor pulling a cart of avocados. Only farmers are permitted into the evacuated communities, so that they can tend their crops and take care of their animals.

An avocado farmer carts his harvest through the empty streets of Shlomi, Israeli, evacuated due to fire from Hezbollah in Lebanon. April 15, 2024 (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)

Nearby, the mangled and burnt remains of a chicken coop, hit by a ballistic missile fired by Hezbollah, sat silently.

Breitbart News met with a specialized unit of commandos that guards the area. They form part of a new rapid reaction force whose mission is to prevent and detect Hezbollah infiltrations, so that what happened in the southern communities near Gaza on October 7 cannot happen in the northern part of the country.

A unit of reserve commandos on watch near Israel’s border with Lebanon, April 15, 2024 (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News).

The commandos are reservists who live in the northern communities and who have spent months away from their families, who have been evacuated to cities further south.

Many expressed frustration that the world’s attention is on displaced Palestinians in Gaza, and not on the displaced civilians of Israel.

Some also expressed disappointment that U.S. President Joe Biden, who pledged “unwavering” support to Israel in October, appears to be preventing Israel from achieving victory over its enemies.

They cannot understand why the U.S. is focused on humanitarian aid to Palestinians instead of the humanitarian plight of Israelis, who neither wanted a war nor started one.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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