US diplomat visits Israel in an attempt to prevent escalation of war with Hezbollah

US trying to secure Hezbollah withdrawal from Israeli border.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

In a bid to head off an escalating war with Hezbollah, White House envoy and mediator Amos Hochstein met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Sunday night.

“We are committed to our citizens. We are ready to resolve this crisis via diplomatic understandings, however we are also prepared for any other scenario,” said Gallant.

Israel seeks to have Hezbollah removed from the Southern Lebanon. Israeli sources told the Tazpit Press Service in January that Jerusalem won’t make any concessions and will continue pushing to have the Iran-backed Hezbollah removed from Southern Lebanon.

The presence of armed Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon violates UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second War in Lebanon in 2006. Under that agreement, the Lebanese Armed Forces are supposed to be the only armed group south of the Litani River.

Since October 7, Hezbollah has fired more than 2,000 rockets and anti-tank missiles and launched dozens of aerial drones, killing six Israeli civilians and nine soldiers. More than 80,000 people living near the Lebanese border to evacuate, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters on Saturday.

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Overall, the IDF has struck more than 3,400 Hezbollah targets in Southern Lebanon since October 7, including 40 weapons depots, 40 command and control centers, 120 observation posts, and 150 Hezbollah terror cells.

Hagari said around 200 members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah have been killed in the airstrikes.

During a tour of Tel Nof airbase in central Israel earlier on Sunday, Gallant warned Hezbollah against escalation.

“We have not yet begun to activate all our units and all our special abilities. We have many elements ready,” Gallant said. “The clear-cut instruction I gave the Air Force is to point the noses of our aircraft northward.”

In 2022, Hochstein brokered an Israeli-Lebanese agreement delineating their maritime borders, allows Lebanon to begin exploiting natural gas in its territorial waters.

But a resolution to the rest of the border is more elusive.

The Blue Line demarcating the 120 km-long border was created in 2000 by UN cartographers to verify Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, which the UN Security Council later certified as complete. The border runs from Rosh HaNikra on the Mediterranean coast to Mount Dov, where the Israeli-Lebanese border converges with Syria.

Hezbollah never recognized the Blue Line and disputes numerous points along the border.

Among those points is a strip of land on Mout Dov itself, which Israel captured from Syria. Hezbollah claims the area called Shebaa Farms belongs to Lebanon. Syria has not commented on the matter.

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International peacekeepers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have been deployed in southern Lebanon to monitor the border since 1978.