Israeli border residents say 'ready' for anything

A man gestures towards the damage from the rocket attack on Kiryat Shmona (Jalaa MAREY)
A man gestures towards the damage from the rocket attack on Kiryat Shmona (Jalaa MAREY)

The remaining residents of Israel's northern town of Kiryat Shmona, those who have not fled rising cross-border fire from militants in Lebanon, said Friday they were ready for whatever happens.

The Israel-Lebanon border has seen escalating tit-for-tat exchanges, mainly between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, since Palestinian militants of Hezbollah ally Hamas launched a shock attack on Israel on October 7, stoking fears of a wider regional conflict.

Both Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon are backed by Iran, Israel's sworn enemy.

Kiryat Shmona was hit by a barrage of rockets on Thursday, with both Hezbollah and the Lebanese section of Hamas's armed wing claiming to have attacked several targets in northern Israel.

"We are ready, we're not worried. We are Israeli people, we are tough people ... we will do whatever it takes," said Boaz Shalgi who lives in Kibbutz Gonen around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the border.

Shalgi said "nothing in the world" could push him out of the Galilee.

"We are very happy to be living here. Usually, it's quiet and peaceful, but when we have to go to war to protect our children, our families, our communities, we do it without hesitation."

On Kiryat Shmona's main artery Tel Hai Avenue, the impact crater left by a rocket on Thursday in front of a restaurant was small, but the smell of burning lingered.

- Running for cover -

No one had yet come to remove the burned car and motorcycle outside the storefront.

Two men were wounded in Thursday's attack and received medical care, one for severe burns, according to Ziv Hospital in the northern city of Safed.

Nahor Duani came to look over the damage the blast caused to his electronics store which sells phones and computers. His shop is next to the restaurant.

The windows of his shop were broken, a few phones were scattered on the ground and the electrics in the store were damaged.

When the rocket hit the day before he immediately ran to the underground shelter to take cover.

"Here, the rocket hits at the same time as the alarm because it's so close" to the border with Lebanon, Duani said.

In central Israel, residents have an estimated 90 seconds from when a siren sounds to reach a shelter.

Duani said he trusts the government and military to do their job.

"They do the work, I just hope it will be quiet soon," he said.

Israel has called up 360,000 reservists to fight Hamas in the war in Gaza, and soldiers are visible everywhere in and around Kiryat Shmona.

- Hezbollah warning -

The conflict was triggered by Hamas's bloody raids on October 7, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says more than 9,227 people have died in Israeli bombardments, mostly women and children.

Shalgi, a tour guide, said of Kiryat Shmona that he hopes "in a few weeks or months, when the Gaza war is over and all this is over, this place will be calm for a long time".

In his first speech since the war broke out last month, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Friday against attacking Lebanon, saying that "all options are open on our Lebanese front".

Israel's military said on Thursday it had retaliated after the fire from Lebanon and targeted Hezbollah's "military infrastructure, command and control centres, rocket launch sites, weapons storage facilities, and military complexes".

Since October 7, six soldiers and one civilian have been killed on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon, according to the army.

In southern Lebanon, 72 people have been killed, according to an AFP count, among them 54 members of Hezbollah.