Israel’s top diplomat threatens Lebanese Hezbollah with destruction in ‘total war’

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Israel on Tuesday warned the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement it would be destroyed in the event of a “total war,” after a US envoy called for de-escalation on the Lebanese border as tensions flare.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz’s comments came after Hezbollah published a more than nine-minute video showing drone footage purportedly taken by the movement over northern Israel, including parts of the city and port of Haifa.

Israel and Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip.

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“We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon,” Katz said, quoted in a statement from his office.

“In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard.”

US envoy Amos Hochstein, on a visit to Lebanon, earlier Tuesday called for an “urgent” de-escalation of the cross-border fire between Hezbollah and Israel.

“The conflict... between Israel and Hezbollah has gone on for long enough,” the presidential envoy said on a visit to Beirut.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to resolve it quickly and diplomatically - that is both achievable and it is urgent.”

Hezbollah stepped up attacks on northern Israel last week after an Israeli strike killed one of its senior commanders.

The Hezbollah video, which AFP was unable to immediately verify independently, pinpointed what the Lebanese movement said were Israeli military, defense and energy facilities, as well as civilian and military infrastructure.

Hochstein met with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a key Hezbollah ally, a day after holding talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Speaker Berri and I had a very good discussion,” Hochstein said.

“We discussed the current security and political situation in Lebanon as well as the deal on the table right now with respect to Gaza, which also provides an opportunity to end the conflict across the Blue Line,” he added, referring to the demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon.

‘Critical moment’

US President Joe Biden last month outlined a truce proposal which Hochstein said would ultimately lead to “the end of the conflict in Gaza.”

“A ceasefire in Gaza and, or, an alternative diplomatic solution could also bring the conflict across the Blue Line to an end” and allow the return of displaced civilians to southern Lebanon and northern Israel, the envoy added.

“This is a serious time and a critical moment,” Hochstein said later after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, calling their discussion “excellent.”

“What we are working together (to do) is to try to identify a way to get to a place where we prevent a further escalation,” he added.

Mikati said “what is required is to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against Lebanon and return to calm and stability on the southern border.”

In a statement from his office, Mikati said “continued Israeli threats” will not distract Lebanon from seeking calm.

Hochstein also met with Lebanese army chief Joseph Aoun.

As the US envoy visited, Hezbollah claimed several attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Tuesday.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported Israel strikes in the country’s south, including targeting a car and a motorbike.

Sirens were also heard several times in various locations across Israel’s north on Tuesday afternoon.

Hezbollah last week said it has carried out more than 2,100 military operations against Israel since October 8, the day after Hamas’ attack that sparked the Gaza war.

The Lebanese group has long said that only an end to the Gaza war would stop its cross-border attacks, which it says it is carrying out in support of Hamas and Gazans.

The violence has killed at least 473 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 92 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.

Read more:

Hezbollah publishes drone footage claiming to show surveillance of Israel’s Haifa

Biden adviser travels to Israel to avoid escalation between Israel, Lebanon

Israeli military says Hezbollah ‘bringing us to brink of escalation’

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