Israel Palestine Conflict

US envoy in Beirut to forge peace talks amid escalating Lebanese-Israeli conflict

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US envoy Amos Hochstein is due to visit Beirut on Monday to continue diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border and bringing stability, a senior Lebanese official said on Sunday.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between the heavily armed adversaries since a 2006 war, fuelling fears of an even bigger confrontation.

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Lebanon’s deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab, one of the officials due to meet Hochstein, told Reuters he believed the timing of his visit pointed to progress in efforts to secure a Gaza truce “within the next few hours or days”.

“If this happens, I believe that Hochstein’s visit this time will be of great importance to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed for stability and ending the possibility of the expansion of the war with Lebanon,” he said.

The White House official did not offer further details about the visit.

Washington has insisted a ceasefire deal in the Gaza war is close and should be in effect by the start of Ramadan, a week away.

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Israel however boycotted talks in Cairo on Sunday after the Palestinian militant group Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list of hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.

Hezbollah has publicly indicated that it would halt its attacks on Israel from Lebanon when the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip stops, but that it was also ready to keep on fighting if Israel continued hostilities.

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters on Thursday that a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip as early as this week would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

Bou Saab said Hochstein had “serious ideas that may provide the beginning of a sustainable solution, stability, and banishing the spectre of war that will not be in anyone’s interest”.

Hochstein, who visited Beirut in January, previously brokered a rare diplomatic deal between Lebanon and Israel in 2022 to delineate their maritime border.

Designated a terrorist group by the United States, Hezbollah has not been a direct party to his diplomatic efforts. Instead, his ideas have been passed on by Lebanese mediators. The group wields significant influence over the Lebanese state.

The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the Israeli offensive launched in response, according to Gaza health authorities.

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