update deskIsrael at War

US warns Hezbollah it can’t restrain Israel in case of all-out war

U.S. presidential envoy Amos Hochstein conveyed a message to Hezbollah in Beirut, urging it to negotiate a diplomatic solution.

Police at the site where a rocket fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon hit and caused damage in the northern Israeli town of Katzrin, June 13, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Police at the site where a rocket fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon hit and caused damage in the northern Israeli town of Katzrin, June 13, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.

U.S. presidential envoy Amos Hochstein last week warned officials in Beirut that Hezbollah is wrong to think the Biden administration would be able to stop an Israeli military operation in Lebanon if the Iran-backed terror group continues its attacks, Axios reported on Tuesday.

The report, which cited U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as a Western diplomat, said Hochstein passed on the message during a June 18 meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Hezbollah.

According to the sources, Hochstein conveyed to Berri that the United States won’t be able to hold Israel back if the situation on its northern border continues to deteriorate and that Hezbollah needs to negotiate a diplomatic deal.

A Western diplomat said that the Lebanese terror proxy sent messages back to the U.S. through third parties, claiming it does not want all-out war but also believes it can cause Israel significant damage should the Israeli military enter Lebanon.

In a video message published on Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed to fight the Jewish state “without restraints, without rules, without limits” should war be “imposed” on Lebanon.  Nasrallah has also threatened that “an invasion of the Galilee remains on the table if the confrontation escalates.”

Hezbollah has attacked northern Israel nearly every day since joining the war in support of Gaza-based Hamas on Oct. 8, killing more than 20 people and causing widespread damage. Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians remain internally displaced due to the ongoing violence.

Since Oct. 8, Hezbollah has fired more than 5,000 rockets, anti-tank missiles and suicide drones at Israeli border communities. On Sunday, drones and anti-tank missile attacks on the Galilee wounded three Israelis, two of whom were listed as being in serious condition.

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi have told Biden’s aides that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers a diplomatic solution, according to Axios.

A U.S. official said Biden’s advisers informed Dermer and Hanegbi that if there’s a war in Lebanon because Hezbollah refuses to cease its attacks until there is a truce in Gaza, Washington will support Israel.

Asked about the prospect of war in an interview with Channel 14 on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “We will do what is necessary. I can assure the citizens of Israel that if we are required to take on this challenge, we will do it. We can fight on several fronts, and we are also preparing for it.”

With intense fighting in Gaza winding down, the Israel Defense Forces will “redeploy some forces to the north…primarily for defensive purposes, but also to bring all the residents of the north home,” he said.

“If we can do it politically, that would be great. If not, we will do it in another way, but we will bring everyone back home—all the residents of the north and the south,” he added.

Any political solution for the northern border “will not be an agreement on paper,” the premier emphasized, but “will include the physical removal of Hezbollah from the border, and we will have to enforce it.”

Last week, 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.

During a meeting with Netanyahu on June 17, Hochstein reportedly rejected Israel’s demand that a deal to end the conflict in the north be based on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701

Instead, he said it should include a range of options, including moving Hezbollah six miles from the border. He stressed that Washington was concerned about further escalation and called for calm on both sides.

The U.S. military likely would not be able to help Israel defend itself against a war with Hezbollah in the way it did when Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones at the Jewish state in April, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in remarks to the press on Sunday.

Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown noted that it is harder to repel the shorter-range rockets from Lebanon, AP reported. An Israel-Hezbollah war also risks triggering a direct military response by Tehran, he added.

Iran would also be “more inclined to support Hezbollah” than it is the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, “particularly if they felt that Hezbollah was being significantly threatened,” Brown warned.

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