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Hamas attack: ill-prepared and bankrupt, Lebanon fears war with Israel

Lebanese rescuers arrive at the site of an Israeli bombing in old trucks and without protective equipment, an example that illustrates the lack of preparation in a country burdened by a long crisis and that fears an escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“We are on the front line and yet we have no equipment to protect ourselves and save people,” says Anis Abla, head of civil defense in Marjayoun, less than 10 kilometers from the border with Israel.

In his prefabricated office, he says not having the means to buy helmets or bulletproof vests for his team of 37 people, most of them volunteers.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, shootings have been almost daily on the border. Pro-Iran Hezbollah and its allies claim to bomb Israel in solidarity with Hamas, but so far, fighting is limited.

In the midst of the economic collapse that has been going on for four years, Lebanon fears being drawn directly into conflict. The country is not prepared to face a war, so volunteers and NGOs have to fill the gap with limited resources.

“If war breaks out, we may not be able to provide enough water for our trucks (to fight fires, ed.) or food for our teams,” says Alba.

Taking into account that the State is bankrupt and can only provide electricity for a few hours a day, the water pumps barely work and therefore fire trucks have limited access to water, explains Hussein Fakih, head of civil defense for the southern Nabatiyé region, where Marjayoun is located.

“Our most recent vehicle is about thirty years old,” Fakih laments, adding that fire trucks break down regularly. “If the situation worsens (…) we will not be able to fulfill all our tasks.”

A woman mourns 16-year-old Ali Kourani, who was killed in what residents said was an Israeli drone strike in his hometown of Yater. Reuters Photo

Cross-border clashes They left at least 62 dead in Lebanon, according to an AFP count, most of them Hezbollah fighters, and forced nearly 29,000 people to flee their homes.

A few kilometers from Marjayoun, Hasbaya welcomed hundreds of displaced people, of whom 150 were installed in a hotel that has not been completed, according to the town’s mayor, Lalbib al-Hamra.

The fears

The local authorities, who lack everything, They had to resort to sending money from Lebanese in the diasporato associations and donors to rehabilitate the hotel and provide the displaced with mattresses, food and medicine, explains the mayor.

“My biggest fear is that the 2006 scenario will be repeated, but worse,” says al-Hamra.

“Currently the Lebanese State “is not prepared to face this type of calamity”he assures.

In 2006, a war between Hezbollah and Israel left more than 1,200 dead in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 dead in Israel, mostly soldiers.

The interim government has drawn up an emergency plan and talks are underway to “ensure that the humanitarian community contributes” to its financing, according to Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Mikati assured AFP on Monday that he is doing everything possible “so that the State and its modest resources are prepared” in the event of a conflict.

Health Minister Firas Abiad stressed that Lebanon faces unprecedented obstacles. Your portfolio needs 30 to 40 million dollars for the emergency plan he developed, adding that “Lebanon is doing everything possible to increase its level of preparedness,” despite having “much more limited” resources.

But many Lebanese have lost confidence in their country’s ability to protect them.

Among them, Ali Khalil Awada, 74, sheltered in the Hasbaya hotel with his wife in a narrow, barely furnished room.

He has already been displaced from his border town of Khiam several times during the civil war (1975-1990), the Israeli occupation of the south (1978-2000) and the 2006 war.

But this time “is the worst,” according to him.

“Our state is dead… and our economy is gone,” he laments. “We don’t even have the means to buy bread.”

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