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US envoy in Israel in bid to calm situation with Hezbollah

US, France leading efforts to broker deal to ensure Hezbollah and Israel don’t go to war

Unifil (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) armoured vehicles patrol on the entrance of the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura near the border with Israel on June 17, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters.
Image Credit: AFP

Jerusalem: US diplomat Amos Hochstein has travelled to the Middle East in a bid to ease tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, which are threatening to spiral into a full-blown war across the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah has traded fire with Israel almost daily since the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on the south of the country, which triggered the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Both groups are backed by Iran and designated as terrorist organizations by the US.

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Hochstein, who has visited Israel and Lebanon several times in recent months to try and mediate a resolution, will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and President Isaac Herzog, according to Israeli officials. He will also hold talks with opposition leader Yair Lapid before going on to Beirut, the Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported Monday.

Hochstein confirmed he is in Israel on Monday. The US and France are leading efforts to broker a deal to ensure Hezbollah and Israel don’t go to war.

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Hochstein is planning to meet Benny Gantz, chairman of the opposition National Unity Party, a spokesman for the party said. Gantz joined Netanyahu’s emergency government following the Hamas attack in October, though resigned last week after criticizing the prime minister’s strategy and accusing him of not doing enough to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza.

Netanyahu is now, as expected, dissolving the three-member war cabinet that was formed when Gantz joined the government, an Israeli official confirmed. The prime minister will continue to consult with a small number of participants, Ynet reported, without saying where it got the information or who they would be.

‘Devastating consequences’

Hezbollah rockets and drones have caused significant damage and casualties in Israel in recent months, and authorities have evacuated tens of thousands of residents from towns and villages in the north of the country. Israel has responded with air strikes and artillery fire into Lebanon, and assassinated several leaders of the group. Its strikes have killed hundreds of people in Lebanon, most of them members of Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation — one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region — Israel Defence Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said Sunday. “Israel has a duty to defend the people of Israel. We will fulfill that duty.”

Israel is demanding that Hezbollah withdraw northward, away from the border, but the Islamist group has said it won’t negotiate without a ceasefire in Gaza, which remains elusive.


Under a United Nations Security Council Resolution following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, armed fighters from Hezbollah are not permitted to enter a designated border area.

Hochstein led negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in 2022 and resolved a maritime dispute, in what was a rare diplomatic success.