The bombing in southern Lebanon is intensifying and now extends well beyond the front line. The possibility of escalation seems ever closer, and the number of people choosing to flee to other parts of the country is increasing, while those with fewer resources are left behind, just a few metres from the bombs.


For eight months now, the clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah have continued unabated, and houses, shops, civilian infrastructure, and the population are increasingly affected by the bombing. The number of civilians killed in the conflict has risen to 95, including women, children, health workers and journalists, while the toll of internally displaced persons in the country has reached over 95,000.  82% of the displaced population is hosted by other families, very often in overcrowded settings, while meanwhile more than 70,000 people still live within a 12 km radius from the border with Israel, where the shelling is most intense.

We have been supporting the civilians affected by this conflict since the very first days of the crisis and, thanks to our extensive presence in the country and outreach volunteers at the borders, we are able to bring immediate aid to the Syrian and Lebanese population living in conflict affected areas, through rapid and targeted interventions organised through the deconfliction mechanism, in coordination with UNIFIL and OCHA. 


Our interventions at the border

Between February and May 2024, we carried out three targeted interventions at the border, delivering emergency in-kind and cash assistance and providing protection services. During one of these interventions we exceptionally reopened our Safe Space in Marjayoun, closed in November for security reasons, to provide emergency psychological assistance to cases previously identified by our staff and outreach volunteers, mostly women experiencing psychological distress. 

The presence of several professional figures, including psychologists, in our teams at the border has given people living under the constant threat of war the opportunity to vent and process their feelings of fear, anger and despair, and has enabled our staff to identify needs in different sectors.

People in the southern territories are in dire need of material support, as the bombing destroyed important water infrastructure and agricultural land, and forced the closure of health facilities, schools and courts, leaving people without essential services and very often without jobs and livelihoods. Another major problem is access to clean water, which has been compromised by the attacks on infrastructure, generating fears among the residents that many water sources may be contaminated.

But the needs in these areas are even more complex: we have observed serious symptoms of psychological distress among children, but also among women and men, and there has clearly been an increase in incidents of domestic violence. Many women also find themselves alone to manage the family because their husbands have moved elsewhere seeking work. However, closed schools remain the main problem. The absence of educational or recreational activities has led to the worst forms of child labour, with many children observed on dangerous streets collecting plastic, iron and other materials to sell. 


Syrian refugees at the border

According to the data we collected from January to the end of April 2024, the number of displaced Syrians has increased significantly, reaching 72% of the total number of IDPs in April, whereas in January they were only 17%. On the other hand, there was a significant decrease in Lebanese IDPs, who in January were 82% of the total while in April they were only 22%. The Lebanese IDPs initially moved more quickly due to stronger family and community networks and resources. In contrast, Syrian IDPs initially hesitated to move for several reasons, including financial constraints, the absence of community support networks, and the fear of losing their rented homes. Moreover, the olive growing season offered Syrians high-risk but well-paid jobs, encouraging them to stay despite the dangers. As the security problems worsen, however, even those who were reluctant are abandoning the areas of fighting.

There are, however, many Syrians who have decided to remain in the south, facing a variety of challenges. In the districts of Hasbaya and Marjaayoun refugees continue to work in cultivated fields despite the high risk of bombardment. During one of the missions to the border, INTERSOS staff visited some informal settlements hosting Syrian families to assess their needs. People reported feeling trapped in the settlements, in very poor hygienic conditions, often without electricity for months and with access only to contaminated water sources. In these places, they live isolated from the rest of the community, partly because of tensions with the Lebanese community, which the conflict is only exacerbating.

The heads of families are unemployed and send their children to work in order to procure some form of livelihood. In the three settlements visited by our operators, this applies to two thirds of the girls and one third of the boys, and none of the children attend school any more.