An Israeli strike on a car in south Lebanon killed three girls aged between 10 and 14 and their grandmother at the weekend.
The Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said it responded to the attack by firing a barrage of Grad rockets at the town of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.
IOL spoke to former journalist Lebanese-born and Cyprus-based Sana Nehme on how the attack affects the Lebanese people and if it could potentially escalate the violence in the region.
To set the scene and context, Nehme highlighted that Lebanon is a divided country in every aspect, politically and religiously.
In addition to that, Lebanon is in a geographically tough spot as it is neighbouring Syria and Israel, both countries that previously occupied the country.
With regards to religion, Lebanese citizens are usually divided into Christians, Muslims, and a small population of Druze.
The Muslims are then further divided into Sunni and Shia, with Shia often being pro-Iran, Russia, and Syria but anti-Saudi Arabia, and Sunni being pro-Saudi Arabia but anti-Iran, Russia, and Syria. The difference in these stances can complicate things.
“The formal stance on the Middle East issue is belligerence against Israel, but logistically, Lebanon cannot help Gaza because there are no planes that go to occupied Palestine,” said Nehme. She added that the Lebanese government also cannot bring aid.
Nehme continued, saying the division in the country can have an impact on the legislature: “Because of division, any law that they (the Lebanese government) want to pass will be met with an impasse. Because they will have to accommodate and satisfy everyone, which is not always possible”.
In light of the Hamas-Israel war and the recent attack in southern Lebanon, Nehme said people are distressed, but Lebanon is not officially in a state of war yet.
“There is a lot of stress and increased tension, but life is going on. There is also a feeling that anything could happen. Because of this, Lebanese citizens like my family members are stockpiling food and groceries as a sort of survival mode kicks in.”
She said this is a country that has not known peace, referencing to the several attacks Israel has very often launched against Lebanon, namely in 1996 and 2006, where it also committed crimes against humanity, killing children at the Qana locality in both wars.
“The situation is not good. Hezbollah has gotten stronger, so if Israel attacks Lebanon, there will be an equilibrium of terror. This means that Israel would not be able to do the same thing to Lebanon as they are doing to Gaza due to the strength of Hezbollah’s resources,” said Nehme.
Nehme broke down the power of Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. “Hezbollah said, ‘For every civilian you kill, we will kill a civilian of yours’.
“Hezbollah is always on defence against Israel and will take action if needed. However, the Lebanese government cannot take action because the national army is not well equipped and is Israel’s neighbour. Israel also has the support of the US and a large amount of resources.
Nehme said that human rights ultimately depend on who you are.
“Human rights is a joke because it depends on where you are from and who you are,” she said, adding that the deaths of Palestinian people and children remain under-reported, with people seemingly apathetic.
“Countries have the right to defend themselves against other countries, but Israel has so far used this stance to attack innocent civilians. ”People keep asking, ‘do you condemn Hamas’, but no one asks, ‘do you condemn Israel?’”.
What other Lebanese authorities are saying
It is believed that the retaliation to Israel’s attack on the innocent family marks the first time Hezbollah has announced using that particular weapon during four weeks of clashes with Israeli forces.
In a statement, Hezbollah said it would never tolerate attacks on civilians and that its response would be "firm and strong".
"The enemy will pay the price for its crimes against civilians," Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters.
According to Israel's military, its troops engaged the vehicle that they say was identified as a suspected transport for terrorists in Lebanon. They are looking into reports that there were civilians inside.
Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called it a "heinous crime".
Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told media in the region it would submit a complaint to the United Nations over the killing of civilians, including children, in the attack.
Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire across the frontier since the Palestinian armed group Hamas and Israel went to war on October 7.