update deskIsrael at War

Blinken: Israel has ‘lost sovereignty’ in the north

"Absent doing something about the insecurity, people won't have the confidence to go back" to their homes in northern Israel and southern Lebanon, Blinken said of the conflict with Hezbollah.

A fire that was started by missiles launched from Lebanon near She'ar Yashuv in northern Israel, July 1, 2024. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
A fire that was started by missiles launched from Lebanon near She'ar Yashuv in northern Israel, July 1, 2024. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

Israel has “effectively lost sovereignty” over the northern part of its country amid ongoing attacks from Lebanon, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

“People don’t feel safe to go to their homes,” the secretary stated during a panel at the Brookings Institute, noting that “you have many Lebanese in Southern Lebanon who have also been chased from their homes.”

“Absent doing something about the insecurity, people won’t have the confidence to go back,” Blinken said of the conflict with Hezbollah.

Washington’s efforts are focused on getting “people back to their homes in Israel, in southern Lebanon, and have something that’s more enduring in terms of keeping things calm,” the diplomat added.

Hezbollah has attacked Israel’s north nearly every day since joining the war in support of Hamas on Oct. 8, firing thousands of suicide drones, rockets and anti-tank missiles at Israeli border towns, killing more than 20 people and causing widespread damage. Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians remain internally displaced due to the ongoing violence.

According to data made public on Tuesday, more than 1,000 buildings in more than 130 towns have been damaged in the Hezbollah attacks. An initial investigation by authorities showed that Kibbutz Manara, near Kiryat Shmona in the Upper Galilee, has suffered the most severe damage.

The head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, Giora Zaltz, told Ynet that in many communities, “it is not possible to assess the damages to the infrastructure, buildings and houses” due to the security threat.

In the Brookings Institute interview, Blinken said any political deal for the north “requires first and foremost, of course, stopping the [Hezbollah] firing across the border that’s endangering people.”

However, he added, “it also requires an agreement reached through diplomacy to try to deal with some of the elements that are causing this ongoing insecurity, including making sure that [terrorist] forces, for example, are pulled back so that they can’t endanger people every single day and that people have the confidence to proceed.”

Blinken noted that while for Hezbollah to attack Israel in support of Hamas is “wrong in and of itself,” realpolitik requires a ceasefire with the Gaza-based terrorist organization, which he said could “be critical to further enabling the diplomacy to try to create conditions in which the diplomacy can really resolve this problem” on the northern border.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to continue the attacks until a “complete and permanent ceasefire” is reached in Gaza.

Last month, the IDF formally “authorized and validated” operational plans for a campaign aimed at pushing Hezbollah north of the Litani River, which was also the stated goal of 2006’s UNSC Resolution 1701.

Israel is considering launching the operation as early as this month, Germany’s Bild reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. The report came against the background of Lufthansa suspending night flights to Beirut.

The deputy director of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, Ole Diehl, recently met with Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, Lebanese media reported on Tuesday. Diehl was said to have warned that a mistake by either party could result in an all-out war.

Qassem “refused to discuss anything before [Israel] stops the war on Gaza” and urged Berlin to put pressure on Jerusalem, according to the report.

During meetings in Washington last week, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed that while Jerusalem prefers a diplomatic solution, it will take whatever action is required to restore security to the north.

“We do not want war, but we are preparing for every scenario,” Gallant stated following the meetings. Jerusalem has emphasized that any deal “will not be an agreement on paper” but must include “the physical removal of Hezbollah from the border, and we will have to enforce it.”

On Monday, an Iranian general told relatives of Hamas terrorists killed in Gaza that the Islamic Republic was prepared to launch another attack on Israel, similar to its unprecedented missile and drone strike in April.

“We await an opportunity for ‘True Promise II’ … in which I do not know how many missiles will be fired,” said Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace forces commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh.

Hajizadeh’s remarks came just days after Iran threatened Israel with a “war of obliteration” if the country launched a broad military action against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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