The Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry announced Monday that they will be evacuating 28 communities along the northern border with Lebanon.
Northern Israeli residents who live in the area up to 2 kilometers, or about 1.2 miles, from the Lebanese border will be evacuated to state-funded guesthouses, according to the plan approved by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. As cross-border fire between Israel and the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon has increased in recent days, the plan to move Israelis will be implemented by the heads of the local municipalities, the Ministry of Interior and the National Emergency Management Authority of the Ministry of Defense.
The 28 communities are: Ghajar, Dishon, Kfar Yuval, Margaliot, Metula, Avivim, Dovev, Ma’ayan Baruch, Bara’m, Manara, Yiftach, Malkia, Misgav Am, Yir’on, Dafna, Arab al-Aramshe, Shlomi, Netu’a, Ya’ara, Shtula, Matat, Zari’t, Shomera, Betzet, Adamit, Rosh HaNikra, Hanita and Kfar Giladi.
"Israel is ready to operate on two fronts, and even more," Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said, according to The Associated Press. Hagari said the evacuation would allow Israeli forces to operate with greater latitude, according to The Associated Press. "If Hezbollah makes the mistake of testing us, the response will be deadly," he added.
Hezbollah released video showing snipers shooting out cameras on several Israeli army posts along the border that had been monitoring movements on the Lebanese side.
"Hezbollah carried out a number of shooting attacks yesterday in order to try and divert our operational efforts from the south, this under the direction and backing of Iran while putting the state of Lebanon and its citizens at risk," Hagari wrote on X Monday. "The IDF is strongly deployed and organized in the north. We have increased our strength and we react offensively to any activity against us in a determined way."
In the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, the U.S. government began evacuating some 2,500 American citizens by ship to Cyprus. Commercial airlines have largely stopped flying into Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, making it extremely difficult to get out of the country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel for a second time in less than a week after a six-country tour through Arab nations aimed at preventing the fighting from igniting a broader conflict. President Biden is also considering a trip to Israel, though no plans have been finalized, according to AP sources.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces, supported by a growing deployment of U.S. warships in the region and the call-up of some 360,000 reservists, have positioned themselves along Gaza’s border and drilled for what Israel said would be a broad campaign to dismantle the Hamas militant group. Israel said it has already struck dozens of military targets, including command centers and rocket launchers, and also killed Hamas commanders.
At a news conference in Tehran Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that Hamas potentially was ready to release the nearly 200 hostages it is holding if Israel stops its campaign of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. The terrorist group has not acknowledged making such an offer.
"We heard from the resistance that they have no problem to continue resisting," Kanaani said, referring to Hamas. "They said the resistance holds military capability to continue resisting in the field for a long time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.