ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Netanyahu to US envoy: Israel committed to fundamental change on Lebanon border

Echoing Gallant’s comments to Hochstein, PM says attacks from Hezbollah must stop so thousands of displaced northern residents can return home

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US special envoy Amos Hochstein in Tel Aviv, January 4, 2024 (Prime Minister's Office via X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US special envoy Amos Hochstein in Tel Aviv, January 4, 2024 (Prime Minister's Office via X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel is committed to bringing about a fundamental change in the security situation on its northern border with Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US special envoy to the region Amos Hochstein on Thursday, amid daily attacks by the Iran-backed terror group.

During a meeting in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu told Hochstein that security must be restored on the northern border so that the estimated 100,000 residents evacuated from the area can “return to their homes and live in safety and security.”

“We will not stop until this goal has been achieved, whether diplomatically, which Israel prefers, or in some other way,” the premier said.

Netanyahu also told Hochstein that “following the murderous assault of October 7, Israel is more determined, daring and united than ever.”

Cross-border attacks from Lebanon have persisted since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7, when thousands of terrorists burst into Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping over 240, mostly civilians.

As Israel launched a military campaign, including a ground incursion, to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza, and release the hostages, it also rushed forces to the north as a precaution against Hezbollah mimicking Hamas’s attack.

Israel has increasingly warned that if the international community does not push Hezbollah — which, like Hamas, is sworn to Israel’s destruction — away from the border through diplomatic means, it will take action.

Netanyahu’s statement echoed comments made by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant earlier on Thursday, when he told Hochstein that there is “a short window of time for diplomatic understandings” to be reached with Hezbollah.

“There is only one possible result — a new reality in the northern arena that will allow for the secure return of our citizens,” Gallant told Hochstein, according to a readout provided by his office.

US President Joe Biden dispatched Hochstein to the region on Thursday as Washington intensified its diplomatic engagement in a bid to lower roiling tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

Hochstein was heavily involved in shepherding talks that culminated in Israel and Lebanon demarcating a maritime border in 2022.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report. 

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