Lebanon must stay out of Israel-Hamas war: French FM

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Lebanese authorities should take all necessary measures to avert a war with Israel, France’s foreign minister said in Beirut on Monday, following repeated exchanges of fire along the shared frontier.

Catherine Colonna spoke hours after Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement again traded cross-border fire, adding to tensions and fears of a wider war, 10 days into fighting between Gaza-based Hamas and Israel.

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Tit-for-tat fire in recent days between Hezbollah and its allied Palestinian factions on the one side and Israel on the other have killed at least 11 people in southern Lebanon and two in Israel.

“Lebanese officials have a responsibility... to do everything possible to prevent Lebanon from being dragged into a spiral,” Catherine Colonna told a press conference, adding that, no group “should take advantage” of the situation.

The United Nations patrols the border between Lebanon and Israel, which remain technically at war.

Tensions have risen since October 7 when militants from Hamas attacked Israel where they shot, stabbed and mutilated 1,400 people.

Israel declared war, vowing to destroy Hamas, which along with Hezbollah is backed by Iran. A bombing campaign against targets in Gaza has killed more than 2,700 people and stoked fury across the Arab world.

We must “continue to avoid a conflagration which could threaten the entire region”, Colonna said following stops in Israel and Cairo.

Earlier on Monday, she met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati who said: “We are working for peace, but the decision to go to war is in Israel’s hands.”

Mikati leads a caretaker government in a country whose political paralysis has left it without a president for almost a year, during a four-year economic meltdown.

“There is no benefit to anyone... in opening a front with south Lebanon, because the Lebanese cannot cope with this,” Mikati said in a statement.

Lebanon’s army said Monday it found and dismantled “20 rocket launchers”, four of which were loaded, near the towns of Qlaileh and Shaaytiyeh, south of the coastal city of Tyre.

It provided no information on the origin of the launchers.

Israel’s army said Monday it was evacuating residents living along its northern border with Lebanon. The move affects thousands of people living in 28 communities.

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