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Israel's north - where time stands still.

Burnt out car in Metulla.

Malte Ian Lauterbach reports from Israel's northern border about Israel's war with Hezbollah, about places where time has stood still since October 07th and about a war that both sides can only lose.

“It was always tense living here. You could almost feel the tension most of the time. “Everything has changed completely since October 7th.” Shards of glass crack under the mayor’s feet as we walk through the ruins of a destroyed apartment building. He picks up a picture frame that is lying on the floor, the glass is cracked, the picture is unrecognizably dirty from the water.

The mayor's gaze rests on the picture frame for a few seconds, then he looks out the destroyed window towards Lebanon. He shakes his head, his eyes tired with sadness and pain, and begins to speak again “We have been a democratic, independent state for 76 years and we only want one thing: to live safely in our homes. We are at war. A war that Hezbollah started, not us.”

View of Lebanon.

We are in Metulla, a tiny village at the very northern tip of Israel. Population before October 07th: 2000. Population now: One.

Metulla has always been in a special situation - surrounded on three sides by Lebanon, there were always moments of tension here before October 07th when Israeli army soldiers confronted Hezbollah fighters. There were actually never any shots fired - mostly it was just swear words and fist gestures. When the situation was less tense, the various actors took selfies with each other.

All this lightness is a thing of the past. After Hamas overran the south of Israel on October 07th, all this lightness disappeared. When the extent of the massacre became clear around midday on October 07th, people hastily left the small town. Because, as the mayor explains, “If it had started here, we wouldn’t be talking about 1400 (deaths). We're talking about 40.000-50.000 people who would have been killed here. Because Hezbollah is much more powerful.”

Senior officials in the Israeli Defense Ministry tell us that they suspect there was a dispute between Hamas and Hezbollah that halted Hezbollah's plans on October 07th. Since then, war has raged over the green hills of Galilee. A war that causes heavy losses on both sides. The damage in Metulla is enormous - a majority of the houses are damaged or destroyed. Most are uninhabitable. Hezbollah attacks the Israeli border area again and again, usually several times a day. Your arsenal is – whe Berlin Story News has already reported in the past – more modern, more advanced and more precise than that of Hamas. Here alone, in the area around Metullah in northern Israel, Hezbollah has been firing since October 07.10th. more than 3500 heavy missiles and hundreds of drones.

Rocket attacks occur several times a day - in order to overwhelm the 'Iron Dome' defense system, the rockets are fired in volleys, a mixture of precise guided missiles and crude, often improvised rockets from Iranian and former Soviet stocks. Hezbollah today has an extensive weapons arsenal, which is said to include around 60.000 operational rockets and missiles with different ranges. The range extends from short-range missiles to medium-range ballistic missiles that can penetrate deep into Israeli territory.

The estimated total inventory of rockets and missiles is around 230.000 to 350.000, coming from sources such as Iran, Syria and former Soviet stocks. The air raid siren blares in the border area several times a day. Shortly after the rocket attacks stopped, Israeli warplanes thundered over the border - supported by Israeli artillery, they tried to destroy the rocket launchers before they were well camouflaged again.

From a bunker in the Israeli border area, we watch as an Israeli Hermes drone finds its target and shoots at a Hezbollah truck with cool, mechanical precision, but is then itself hit by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The heavy, slow drone is an easy target for Iran's Sabbat-1 guided missile. Sayyad – 'Fighter', based on American 'MIM-23 HAWK' that Iran received before the revolution.

But the 'hunter' also becomes the hunted - just days later the battery is destroyed by Israeli air strikes. This is how the war between Israel and Hezbollah is going – a low-intensity war, an attritional, asymmetrical conflict. Both sides suffer heavy losses, the Israelis more of a technical nature - radars, air defense systems, tanks. Hezbollah has lost a large number of men with irreplaceable experience and equipment, with no benefit to either side. To replace the lost radars on Mount Meron, whose army base repeatedly comes under fire, an aerostat is now floating in the north - a massive airship that can use its sensors to look deep into the vast fields of Lebanon.

Looking across the border. There too: destruction caused by months of war

On both sides of the border, when the artillery falls silent, it is eerily quiet. A few birds chirp as the howling wind whips through broken glass. In both Lebanon and Israel, most people left the border area the day after October 7th. Most people on both sides have left the border area. The respective governments on both sides speak of “restraint”. While Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah, is probably hiding in a bunker beneath the Iranian embassy in Beirut and talks about how Hezbollah is not interested in massive escalations, the Israeli side is certain that neither side can afford such a confrontation can.

Apart from the mayor and a few dogs that were separated from their owners in a hasty escape, there is no one left in Metulla today. When we arrive in Metulla in mid-March, we are the first journalists to report this far north of Israel since October 7th. The mayor leads us further through the deserted streets of Metulla and into another house. It is deserted, like all houses. On the table in the kitchen is the Shabbat roast, left behind when they fled. The table is half decorated, the flowers withered. Everything from the living room was destroyed, the pressure wave pushed the wall inwards, tore windows and tore open cupboards.

Here too the mayor falters again. “We are trying to protect the houses, but we cannot protect the houses. This has been the situation for the last five and a half months. No people live here. There is no agriculture. We can't grow our apples. There is no tourism. There is actually an area five kilometers wide where no people live.” Most people fled in the days after October 07.10th. to Tiberias. More than 200.000 people had to flee northern Israel, many of them to hotels spread across the country, others to friends and relatives, depending on where there was space. The mayor fears that when – if – the war with Hezbollah ends, very few people will return. He says: “People have already rented some houses elsewhere. And they try to place their children in other schools. And if this continues for a long time, the children will be separated from the community and will no longer return here. I must never forget who is sacrificing my entire community here.”

The voices in northern Israel criticizing the government's behavior are growing louder by the day. They demand security guarantees and peace. The Israeli government is urging the UN to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1680, which calls for the disarmament of Lebanese militias such as Hezbollah and the demilitarization of the area near northern Israel. This strip of land - just under 25 kilometers from the demarcation line to the Litani River - has been a source of conflict between Israel and Lebanon in the past. (Berlin Story News reported here). The 2006 Lebanon War resulted in heavy losses for the Israeli army, largely due to unexpected tactics and weapons used by Hezbollah. Since then, both sides have significantly improved their military capabilities. Currently, Hezbollah has firepower equivalent to that of a medium-sized army and surpasses the combined missile and artillery arsenal of all European nations.

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