The United States condemned Friday’s rocket attack on Israel carried out by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, calling for efforts to de-escalate tensions that have worsened across the entire region in recent weeks.
Earlier in the day, the Iran-backed militant group confirmed that it had launched “dozens” of 122-mm rockets at Israeli targets in response to air strikes in south Lebanon on Wednesday night.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms Hezbollah’s rocket attacks into Israel. This violence puts Israelis and Lebanese at risk and jeopardizes Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Price said the US was engaged with both sides, including the Lebanese Army, which arrested four Hezbollah members after local residents intercepted the truck used to launch the rockets. The suspects were reportedly released less than 12 hours later.
Watch: Locals in the south of Lebanon turn on the Iran-backed Hezbollah organization and intercept vehicles carrying rocket launchers used to attack Israel from nearby areas. https://t.co/xs2IksA5Sd pic.twitter.com/9UfRiNB5AP— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 6, 2021
“We call upon the Lebanese government urgently to prevent such attacks and bring the area under its control,” the State Department official said.
Price added: “We also urge the Lebanese government to facilitate full access for UNIFIL peacekeepers in accordance with UNSCR 1701. We strongly encourage all efforts to maintain calm.”
Israeli media reported that Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz called his US counterpart to urge him to press Lebanon on the attacks. But a statement from the Pentagon made no mention of Lebanon or Hezbollah during the phone call.
“Secretary Austin and Minister Gantz expressed concern about Iran’s proliferation and employment of one-way attack UAVs across the region and committed to continue cooperating closely on regional security,” a statement from the Pentagon read.
Hezbollah and Israel were last engaged in an all-out war in 2006. Flare-ups of violence have taken place since then, but both sides have expressed their disinterest in escalation at this point. However, analysts believe the next war between both sides is inevitable.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely on the matter, said there were “real concerns” about the deteriorating situation in Lebanon. “That is going to be a huge problem, not just for them [Lebanon], but for us, if things spiral out of control,” the official told Al Arabiya English.
Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government for almost a year. The Beirut blast, COVID-19 pandemic and years of corruption and clientelism have put the country in an unprecedented situation.
The international community has said it would be willing to help, but not before a government is formed to implement badly needed reforms.