Farmer Ghassan Hassan and his labourers have been toiling tirelessly to harvest olives in fields near Lebanon’s southern border, undeterred by nearby Israeli bombings and the whirr of surveillance aircraft.
Olive harvesting is a main source of income for villagers, but this year the season has coincided with tit-for-tat cross-border exchanges between Israeli troops and the Iran-backed Hezbollah as the Israel-Hamas war rages in Gaza. It’s been reported that the exchanges have also involved Hamas’s Qassam Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades.
“Aircraft hover over our heads day and night while we work, making the workers anxious. They sometimes get so frightened they leave,” said Hassan, in his 50s, who is picking green and purple olives near the town of Hasbaya.
“This year is unlike the ones before,” he added.
As he spoke, one of his workers received news that his village had been hit by a bombardment. Stopping work, he frantically tried to call relatives with trembling hands. When he heard they were all safe, breathing a sigh of relief he returned to work.
Since Hamas fighters stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, Israeli warplanes have been bombarding the Palestinian territory, killing close to 10,000.
The violence has also triggered a wave of unrest along the Israel-Lebanon border.
At least 63 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to an AFP tally, mostly fighters but also five civilians. Eight soldiers and civilians have been killed on the Israeli side of the border.
The escalating exchanges of fire have made olive picking near the border particularly dangerous. But despite the frequent shelling nearby and non-stop buzzing of reconnaissance aircraft, the farmers have not stopped working their land.