Israel ordered more than 20,000 residents of the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to evacuate on Friday, according to The Jerusalem Post. This comes after Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah engaged in intense exchanges of fire at the Israeli-Lebanese border near Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday.
Similar to Hamas, Hezbollah is a Lebanese Islamist political party and militant group backed by Iran. While Hezbollah has exchanged fire with Israel, the confrontations have not turned into a full-scale war. Nonetheless, Israeli military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus alleged that Hezbollah’s actions have “escalat[ed] the situation steadily.”
According to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari, the evacuations near Kiryat Shmona have provided the Israeli army with increased operational freedom to act against Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army said a journalist was killed by Israeli gunfire from Kiryat Shmona on Thursday amid an Israel-Hezbollah exchange. While Israel claimed that it had targeted Hezbollah’s infrastructure, Hezbollah stated “The killing of civilians and the assault on the security of our country will not go without response or punishment.”
The Israel-Hamas war began on October 7 when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel. On October 15, Israel restated evacuation orders calling upon Northern Gaza residents to flee to Southern Israel to allow military operations to occur in the North. On October 13, a UN spokesperson called for an investigation of the Israeli airstrike that led to the death of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah. The Associated Press stated on Sunday that more than 1,400 civilians and military personnel have been killed in Israel since the conflict started.