Israel to hammer Hezbollah if Gaza ceasefire reached – Defense Minister

Ceasefire with Hamas won’t lead to reduction in operations on Israel-Lebanon border, Defense Minister says: ‘The goal is to push Hezbollah back.’

By World Israel News Staff

Israel will ramp up operations against the Hezbollah terrorist organization in southern Lebanon if Israel and Hamas reach a ceasefire deal as part of an agreement to secure the release of hostages, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday.

Speaking during a visit to the headquarters of the Israeli army’s Northern Command in Tzfat (Safed) Sunday, Gallant said that in contrast to the first ceasefire with Hamas, Israel would not halt or downgrade its military operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“We are planning to increase the firepower against Hezbollah, which is unable to find replacements for the commanders we are eliminating,” Gallant said.

“In the event of a temporary truce in Gaza, we will increase the fire in the north, and will continue until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah and the return of the residents to their homes.”

Tens of thousands of Israeli residents of the Lebanon frontier  remain evacuated from their homes, due to the ongoing fighting with Hezbollah.

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“The goal is simple — to push Hezbollah back to where it should be. Either by agreement, or we will do it by force.”

Talks in Paris aimed at brokering a deal between Israel and Hamas have made progress, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

Sullivan said that negotiators had reached an understanding regarding the “basic contours” for a hostage deal, though the framework would still need to be approved by Hamas’ leadership.

At the same time, a senior Hamas spokesman downplayed the likelihood Sunday of reaching a deal, claiming that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “not concerned” with securing an agreement.

“Netanyahu’s comments show he is not concerned about reaching an agreement,” Hamas’ Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

The Israeli leader, Abu Zuhri continued, wants “to pursue negotiation under bombardment and the bloodshed” of Gazans.

Netanyahu told CBS News in an interview aired Sunday that Israel would carry out its planned operation in Rafah whether or not a deal is reached with Hamas, adding that a hostage agreement would only impact the timing of the operation.

“If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done.”