by Daniel Siryoti
Soldiers on duty tell Israel Hayom: Hezbollah is stockpiling rockets and weapons in civilian homes.
The troops are at peak motivation and ready for any scenario,
says Maj. Kobi EzraPhoto: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Iran can strike at Israel at any time via its satellite militia in Lebanon – Hezbollah – but anyone who thought that winds of war would be blowing in the Galilee too was apparently wrong. The Israeli Air Force strikes on targets in Syria in response to Iranian rocket fire at Israel late Wednesday, as well as the general tension along the border with Syria, have been essentially drowned out by the chirping birds and pastoral atmosphere of the Galilee.
A sharp eye can pick out the Iron Dome missile batteries and other defense measures that have sprung up amid the spring greenery these past few days. The defenses have been deployed mainly in fields and in nature preserves rather than out in the open. To avoid alarming tourists or affecting the local routine, the defense measures were transported northward late at night, when the roads were relatively empty.
Still, the closer one gets to the border, starting at Rosh Hanikra on the northernmost point of the western coast and moving east toward Avivim, Hanita and Zar'it, the beefed up defenses become more noticeable.
The picturesque calm appears to be extending into the Lebanese side of the border as well. No armed Hezbollah operatives have been spotted in the area, in contrast to past provocations. But residents of communities near the border are noticing a large number of "shepherds" on the Lebanese side of the fence.
"If they're shepherds, I'm an astronaut," Abdullah, a resident of the village of Arraba, told Israel Hayom with a smile.
"They're Hezbollah lookouts who are tracking every movement on our side of the border. They've come back recently," Abdullah says.
From the communities of Hanita and Baram, one can easily watch daily life in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon: children return from school, people come home carrying baskets stuffed with supplies for the upcoming Ramadan holiday. Preparations for war? You won't find those here.
But a few soldiers manning guard posts near Hanita proclaim: "Don't let the calm fool you. They're stockpiling weapons and rockets in the homes of civilians."
Indeed, apart from the schoolchildren and the shoppers, new Hezbollah outlook posts can be seen only a few kilometers from the border, disguised as silos. The most prominent reminder that Hezbollah is still here, and still poses a threat, is a sign that some operatives recently hung facing Zar'it, shortly after Hezbollah won a dramatic victory in Lebanon's parliamentary election this week. The sign, written in Arabic and Hebrew, reads: "Our vote destroyed your plans" – proof of the Hezbollah propaganda that blames Israel for all the ills of the Middle East.
The forces deployed to the north include a contingent headed by Maj. Kobi Ezra, 27, from the northern moshav Shaar Yishuv. Ezra commands the Doher riflery company in the 603rd Engineering Corps Battalion. His troops are stationed at an outpost on Mount Hermon.
"Every commander waits for the opportunity to serve his country. As a citizen, I'm happy that there are commanders who aren't afraid of confronting any challenge that comes," Ezra tells Israel Hayom, adding that his forces were not surprised by the recent developments.
"There were a lot of hints and a clear sense of what was coming," he says. "We prepared in advance. We knew what we were heading into and the fighters are ready and willing to confront any scenario. They are at peak motivation."
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