(JTA) — Israel is evacuating Kiryat Shemona, a town of more than 20,000 people near Israel’s border with Lebanon, following repeated exchanges of fire with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and ahead of a planned ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The announcement early Friday comes after nearly two weeks of combat with Hamas on the Gaza border in Israel’s south, and after ongoing clashes with Hezbollah in which there have been casualties on both sides of Israel’s northern border. For days, Israel has been on the verge of an incursion into Gaza, and seeks to prevent the conflict from escalating on its other fronts.
Like Hamas, Hezbollah is backed by Iran, and has intensified its engagement with Israel since Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, but the exchange of rocket fire has not yet escalated into a full scale conflagration.
Israel recently evacuated the area surrounding the Gaza border, including much of the 30,000-resident city of Sderot. The country had some 60,000 internal refugees before the Kiryat Shemona evacuation. Kiryat Shemona, barely over a mile from the Lebanese border, has been a main target for Hezbollah rocket fire in past wars.