Lebanon’s Hezbollah will halt fire if Hamas OKs Gaza truce, sources say 

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Lebanon’s Hezbollah will halt fire if Hamas OKs Gaza truce, sources say 

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Clouds of smoke rise from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, as sources in Lebanon reported Israeli airstrikes killed at least two Hezbollah members. — Reuters pic

BEIRUT, Feb 28 — Lebanon’s Hezbollah will halt fire on Israel if its Palestinian ally Hamas agrees to a proposal for a truce with Israel in Gaza — unless Israeli forces keep shelling Lebanon, two sources familiar with Hezbollah’s thinking told Reuters yesterday

Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern border since October 8, a day after a bloody Hamas assault in southern Israel that triggered a fierce Israeli land, air and sea offensive on the Gaza Strip.

A temporary truce between Hamas and Israel to allow for hostage and prisoner releases led to a week of calm across the Lebanese-Israeli border in late November.

Hamas is now weighing a new proposal, agreed by Israel at talks with mediators in Paris last week, for a deal that would suspend fighting for 40 days, which would be the first extended pause of the five-month-old war.

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“The moment Hamas announces its approval of the truce, and the moment the truce is declared, Hezbollah will adhere to the truce and will stop operations in the south immediately, as happened the previous time,” one of the two sources close to the heavily armed, Shi’ite Muslim group said.

But if Israel continued shelling Lebanon, Hezbollah would not hesitate to carry on fighting, both sources said.

The Hezbollah media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this month the group’s attacks on Israel would only end when Israel’s “aggression” against Gaza ends.

Hezbollah is one of several Iran-aligned groups around the Middle East that have entered the fray since the Gaza war began, waging campaigns they say aim to support Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

The Houthis of Yemen have been firing on shipping in the Red Sea, prompting U.S. strikes on the group, and Iran-backed Iraqi groups have fired on U.S. troops at bases in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. A drone attack late last month in northeast Jordan killed three U.S. soldiers, prompting U.S. retaliatory strikes.

No talks until Gaza ceasefire

In Lebanon, Israeli air and missile strikes have killed nearly 200 Hezbollah fighters and almost 50 civilians. Attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and half as many civilians.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the frontier.

Foreign envoys have sought to secure a diplomatic resolution to the fighting, reflecting worry about further escalation.

Earlier this month, France delivered a written proposal to Beirut aimed at ending hostilities. It included negotiations to settle the disputed Lebanon-Israel frontier and a withdrawal of Hezbollah’s elite unit 10km from the border.

Hezbollah, which exercises significant sway over the Lebanese state, has insisted it will discuss no arrangements for southern Lebanon until a permanent ceasefire has been agreed for Gaza. The two sources told Reuters this stance has not changed.

The first source said Hezbollah had previously specified that there would be no talks with the group until after a Gaza ceasefire, and it stood by this position.

While hostilities have largely been limited to the border zone, Israeli fighter jets on Monday hit the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, the most far-reaching strikes in Lebanon during the current conflict.

On Sunday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant indicated that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah in the event of a possible ceasefire in the Gaza conflict. He said the goal was to secure a Hezbollah withdrawal from the border region, either through a diplomatic agreement or by force. — Reuters

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