Hezbollah: Foreign efforts to end Lebanon border clashes ‘serve Israel’

Hezbollah: Foreign efforts to end Lebanon border clashes ‘serve Israel’
Hezbollah: Foreign efforts to end Lebanon border clashes ‘serve Israel’

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Israeli security forces inspect the area hit by rockets fired from soutern Lebanon in the northern Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona on February 13, 2024. — AFP pic

BEIRUT, Feb 14 — Hezbollah’s chief said yesterday foreign efforts to end the Lebanon-Israel cross-border violence served Israeli interests, and that ending the Gaza war was key to halting hostilities on the frontier.

Hassan Nasrallah spoke in a televised address a day after French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said he had put forward “proposals” during a recent visit to Lebanon.

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity in Beirut, with foreign ministers including from Germany, France and Britain visiting in efforts to dial down tensions.

“All the delegations that have come to Lebanon over the past four months... have only one goal: the security of Israel, protecting Israel” and returning displaced north Israeli residents to their homes, Nasrallah said yesterday.

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“When the attack on Gaza stops and there is a ceasefire, the fire will also stop in the south” of Lebanon, he said, but warned: “If they (Israel) broaden the confrontation, we will do the same.”

Hezbollah fighters have traded near-daily fire with Israel since the war broke out on October 7 between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Fears have been growing of another full-blown conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, with tens of thousands displaced on both sides of the border and regional tensions soaring.

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Late last month, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Israeli troops would “very soon go into action” near the country’s northern border with Lebanon.

Border plan

Several diplomatic sources, requesting anonymity, told AFP the French plan involved Hezbollah fighters withdrawing to 10-12 kilometres (six to seven miles) from the border.

“Let nobody think Lebanon is weak and afraid, or that they can impose conditions” including over the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters, Nasrallah said.

Sources close to Sejourne said the French proposals had been “hand-delivered to the highest officials in the two countries”, Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, asked yesterday about the French plan, said he had “not received an official document from the French but a list of ideas” to which he had been asked to respond.

One Lebanese official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the French were “playing solo”, and not coordinating their actions with the United States.

Nasrallah warned that if Israel decided to wage war on Lebanon, those displaced from northern Israel “will not return” and Israeli officials should “prepare shelters, hotels, schools and tents for two million people” who would be displaced.

Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned that “time is running out” to reach a diplomatic solution in south Lebanon.

“Israel will act militarily to return the evacuated citizens” to its northern border area if no diplomatic solution is reached, he said.

The cross-border violence since the start of the Israel-Hamas war has killed at least 243 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 30 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, nine soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army. — AFP

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