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US pushing Israel to avoid war with Hezbollah – World News

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US pushing Israel to avoid war with Hezbollah – World News

WASHINGTON

US pushing Israel to avoid war with Hezbollah

This picture taken from northern Israel shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon on June 25, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters

The United States is pressing Israel to avoid a major war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with top American officials urging a diplomatic solution in order to prevent another Middle East crisis.

Israeli forces and Iran-backed Hezbollah are exchanging fire on a near-daily basis, and the Israeli army said last week that plans for an offensive in Lebanon were “approved and validated.”

Washington is working to lower the temperature, but those efforts — which come on top of disagreements between the administrations of U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — may further add to tensions between the two leaders.

“There is increasing concern among the Biden administration that tit-for-tat violence along the Israel-Lebanon border will escalate into a full-fledged war,” said Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation.

“The stakes are significant for two reasons. First, another Israel-Lebanon war would be very destructive on both sides,” Cohen said.

“Second… an Israel-Hezbollah war incurs a greater risk of escalating into a wider regional war than the Gaza war has so far. Hezbollah is the crown jewel in Iran’s proxy network, so the thought is that Iran would be more likely to intervene,” he said.

Eight months of cross-border violence has killed at least 481 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters but also including 94 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is on a visit to Washington seeking to reaffirm the value of ties with Israel’s top ally, and American officials have taken the opportunity to push for a diplomatic solution to the fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli troops.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted Gallant at the Pentagon on Tuesday, warning that “another war between Israel and Hezbollah could easily become a regional war, with terrible consequences for the Middle East.”

“Diplomacy is by far the best way to prevent more escalation,” he said.

Gallant, speaking at the opening of the meeting with Austin, said that “we are working closely together to achieve an agreement but we must also discuss readiness (for) every possible scenario.”

  ‘Avoiding further escalation’ 

The previous day, Gallant met for two hours at the State Department with top U.S. diplomat Antony Blinken, who delivered a similar message.

Blinken “underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Miller told journalists Tuesday that “we think a diplomatic resolution is possible. We think it is in the interests of all parties. And I will say that Minister Gallant confirmed to the secretary yesterday that that is Israel’s preferred outcome.”

Gallant said Monday that the United States and Israel “must resolve the differences between us quickly and stand together — this is how we will achieve our goals and weaken our enemies.”

But the U.S. pressure over Lebanon may also boost friction between the two sides.

“I think the question is less whether this adds to the tension between Biden and Netanyahu, but rather by how much,” Cohen said.

He noted that Netanyahu publicly chastised the United States for what he said was a delay in weapons deliveries — a situation Washington insists only applies to one shipment of bombs — while there are also tensions over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the lack of a post-war plan for the territory.

Several Western diplomats have visited Lebanon in recent months seeking to dial down cross-border tensions, including U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein, who last week called for “urgent” de-escalation.

Cohen said that neither Israel nor Hezbollah ultimately want all-out conflict given the potential consequences for both sides.

“But neither side wants to back down,” he said, likening it to “a grand game of chicken where both sides are seeing who swerves first.”

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