In Beirut, US envoy urges de-escalation between Israel, Hezbollah: ‘Achievable, urgent’

Pushing diplomatic solution to Hezbollah-Israel exchanges of fire, Hochstein says latest Gaza hostage-ceasefire proposal could ‘end the conflict across the Blue Line’

US special envoy Amos Hochstein addresses the media after meeting with Lebanon's parliament speaker in Beirut on June 18, 2024. (AFP)
US special envoy Amos Hochstein addresses the media after meeting with Lebanon's parliament speaker in Beirut on June 18, 2024. (AFP)

US envoy Amos Hochstein on Tuesday called for the “urgent” de-escalation of cross-border exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, raging since the start of the Gaza war, as drone alert sirens sounded in a number of northern towns near the border with Lebanon for the first time in days.

“The conflict… between Israel and Hezbollah has gone on for long enough,” the presidential envoy said on a visit to Beirut.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to resolve it quickly and diplomatically — that is both achievable and it is urgent.”

The Iran-backed terror group, an ally of Hamas, began attacks on Israel on October 8, but stepped them up last week after an Israeli strike killed one of its senior commanders.

Since Saturday afternoon, Hezbollah has not claimed any attacks against Israel, despite Israeli strikes on the border area in Lebanon’s south including one on Monday that killed a fighter, in a lull that came during the Eid al-Adha.

There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces on the sirens early Tuesday afternoon, though the Ynet news site reported that a drone from Lebanon was intercepted.

US special envoy Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut on June 18, 2024. (AFP)

Hochstein met with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally, a day after holding talks in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as opposition leaders.

“Speaker Berri and I had a very a good discussion,” Hochstein said after meeting the Lebanese parliamentarian.

“We discussed the current security and political situation in Lebanon as well as the deal on the table right now with respect to Gaza, which also presents an opportunity to end the conflict across the Blue Line,” the demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon.

US President Joe Biden last month outlined a truce and hostage proposal which Hochstein said would “ultimately the end of the conflict in Gaza.”

“A ceasefire in Gaza and, or, an alternative diplomatic solution could also bring the conflict across the Blue Line to an end” and allow the return of displaced civilians to southern Lebanon and northern Israel, the envoy added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, right, meets with US Special Envoy Amos Hochstein in Tel Aviv, June 17, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Hezbollah last week said it has carried out more than 2,100 military operations against Israel since October 8, the day after Hamas’s brutal massacre that sparked the Gaza war. Hezbollah said the campaign is in support of the Palestinians amid the ongoing fighting.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 343 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 63 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

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