Home News Hezbollah-Israel clashes force mass Eexodus from South Lebanon

Hezbollah-Israel clashes force mass Eexodus from South Lebanon

Christians residing in the border villages of South Lebanon experienced a somber Christmas this year as clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces spilled over into their communities. 

The conflict, stemming from the Israel-Hamas war that erupted on October 7, has led to near-daily confrontations on the Israel-Lebanon border, resulting in the displacement of thousands, particularly from Christian villages in southern Lebanon.

According to reports from Vatican News, up to 90 percent of the population in these Christian villages has fled their homes since October to seek refuge from the daily rocket fire exchanged between Hezbollah and Israeli forces. 

The clashes have claimed the lives of 159 individuals on the Lebanese side, with most casualties being militants from Hezbollah and allied groups, along with at least 17 civilians.

Recent escalations, including the killing of six Hezbollah fighters, including Hussein Ibrahim Salameh, known as “Nasser,” have heightened fears of a full-scale war. 

While Israeli strikes primarily targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Shia areas, collateral damage has affected several Christian villages, forcing families to flee northwards.

“The situation in southern Lebanon is dire, with many families forced to abandon their homes in the midst of ongoing hostilities. The toll on both civilians and militants is tragic,” remarked Lisa Zengarini, the author of the Vatican News article.

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The Pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported that Alma Al-Shaab, one of the worst-affected villages, witnessed the destruction of 15 homes due to missile strikes. 

Displaced families found temporary shelter in Beirut, offered by Christian families, but the shortage of long-term accommodations led some to return to their devastated homes.

“The resilience of the people in these villages is inspiring, with priests and religious figures staying behind to minister to those who cannot relocate. However, the challenges are immense, especially with the destruction of homes and agricultural fields,” said Xavier Stephen Bisits, ACN’s Head of Projects in Lebanon.

Amidst widespread fears of escalating violence, local religious leaders expressed concerns about the potential threat to the historical Christian presence in the area.

ACN has been actively involved in providing relief, offering food packages, medical assistance, and facilitating online education for students in Catholic schools in southern Lebanon.

On Christmas Day, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Al-Rahi reiterated his plea for Lebanon to remain neutral in the face of increasing hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces. 

In his Christmas homily, the Patriarch rejected the spread of war to southern villages, emphasizing Lebanon’s identity as a land of dialogue and peace.

“We reject the spread of the war to the southern villages. Lebanon is not a land of war but a land of dialogue and peace,” declared Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, urging the international community to uphold Lebanon’s historical commitment to neutrality.

He recalled the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the 2012 ‘Baabda Declaration,’ both affirming Lebanon’s neutrality in the Middle East region. Patriarch Al-Rahi stressed that Lebanon’s neutrality has been integral to its identity since 1860 and called for its preservation amid the current conflict.

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