Visiting Lebanon, US envoy says diplomacy ‘only way’ to end Israel-Hezbollah clashes

Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Amos Hochstein says a temporary ceasefire is not a solution, and the situation along the Blue Line demarcating the border ‘has to change’

US special envoy Amos Hochstein delivers a statement following his meeting with Lebanon's parliament speaker in Beirut on March 4, 2024. (AFP)
US special envoy Amos Hochstein delivers a statement following his meeting with Lebanon's parliament speaker in Beirut on March 4, 2024. (AFP)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A US envoy said Monday that a diplomatic solution is key to ending nearly five months of intensifying hostilities between the Hezbollah terror group and Israel, after the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war.

“A diplomatic solution is the only way to end the current hostilities” and achieve “a lasting fair security arrangement between Lebanon and Israel,” Washington’s envoy Amos Hochstein told reporters in Beirut, adding that “a temporary ceasefire is not enough.”

“A limited war is not containable,” he said, after meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.

Security along the Blue Line, demarcated by the United Nations in 2000 after Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon, “has to change in order to guarantee everyone’s security,” he added.

Hochstein was set to hold talks with other senior officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in a push to halt violence along the border with Israel.

His visit came the same day that a missile from Lebanon killed a foreign worker in Israel near the border and wounded at least seven others, the latest casualties in months of escalating clashes.

US special envoy Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut on March 4, 2024. (AFP)

Finding a diplomatic solution “is not just an American effort,” Hochstein said, adding that Washington is working with “global partners… to advance opportunities for prosperity and stability in Lebanon.”

He said there would be international support for Lebanon including its economy and military “but this can only start when we can reach a way forward.”

Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qassem earlier Monday reiterated that the group, which says it is acting in support of Gazans and Hamas, would stop its attacks on Israel once the Gaza war ends.

“Stop the assault on Gaza and war will end in the region,” Qassem said.

Hochstein said the US was working “tirelessly” for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. But Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said there will be no let-up in Israeli action against Hezbollah even if a Gaza ceasefire is secured.

During a January visit, Hochstein said that both Lebanon and Israel “prefer” a diplomatic path to end hostilities.

Smoke billows following Israeli strikes on the Lebanese village of Markaba, March 4, 2024. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

The US envoy is expected to also visit Israel during his trip to the region and meet with senior Israeli officials, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled all his meetings so far this week, as he is sick with the flu.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis. So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 229 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 37 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 30 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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