Israel Palestine Conflict

Israeli defense minister says Hezbollah aggression bringing critical point nearer

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Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant said on Tuesday the continuing tension with Iran-backed Hezbollah at the border with Lebanon was moving the situation nearer to a military escalation.

Israel and Hezbollah have been trading fire since the Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, fueling concern about the danger of all-out war between the heavily armed adversaries.

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“We are committed to the diplomatic process, however Hezbollah’s aggression is bringing us closer to a critical point in the decision-making regarding our military activities in Lebanon,” Gallant said in a statement after meeting US envoy Amos Hochstein, who is seeking a mediated end to that conflict.

Hezbollah has indicated it will cease fire if Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip stops, describing its campaign as aimed at supporting Palestinians under fire in Gaza.

But visiting Beirut on Monday, Hochstein warned that a truce in Gaza would not necessarily bring an automatic end to hostilities across Lebanon’s southern border.

He said a temporary ceasefire was not enough and a limited war was not containable.

Mediators have been seeking to clinch a 40-day ceasefire in the Gaza war in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins at the start of next week.

Much of the violence between Israel and Hezbollah has played out near the border, with notable exceptions including a Feb. 26 Israeli airstrike in the Bekaa Valley, and a Jan. 2 Israeli drone strike in Beirut that killed a top Hamas leader.

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In violence on Monday, an Israeli strike killed three emergency workers from a group affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanese government said, and a civilian was killed in northern Israel by an attack from Lebanon.

Israeli strikes since October have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and six civilians. Tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have fled villages on both sides of the frontier.

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