Growing concerns about new war in Lebanon


Lerato Khumalo

Israel warns of an escalation of the conflict with the Hezbollah militia. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu is causing anger among the important US ally. The news at a glance.

Israel’s military has approved plans for an offensive in Lebanon, fueling fears of an escalation in the conflict with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia. High-ranking commanders approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon” during a situation assessment, the military said. The readiness of the troops will be further increased.

When asked about this, the Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Pat Ryder, said: “I’m not going to indulge in hypotheses or speculate about what might happen, but I’m just saying that nobody wants a major regional war.” The communications director of the US National Security Council, John Kirby, said against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Islamist Hamas, which is allied with the Hezbollah militia: “We don’t want an escalation. We don’t want to see a second front.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz threatened on Platform X: “In a full-scale war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard.” Katz continued: “We are close to the moment of decision to change the rules against Hezbollah and Lebanon.” Hezbollah had previously published aerial photographs from northern Israel, according to its own account.

The images are said to show the port of Haifa and other important strategic locations in the area and were taken by a drone. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasted of having filmed the ports of Haifa and threatened to attack them, Israel’s foreign minister wrote.

Since the beginning of the Gaza war more than eight months ago, there have been daily military confrontations between the Israeli army and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the border area between the two countries. There have been deaths on both sides. Israel wants to use military and diplomatic pressure to get Hezbollah to withdraw behind the Litani River, 30 kilometers from the border – as stipulated in a 2006 UN resolution.

The Shiite militia is considered to be significantly more powerful than Hamas in Gaza. US envoy Amos Hochstein held talks in Lebanon to achieve a ceasefire. According to Lebanese information, Hochstein wanted to convey a sharp warning from the Israeli side to the Lebanese government.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly attacked the US government in a video over a withheld arms shipment, causing irritation among the most important ally.

He recently told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Israel that it was “incomprehensible that the government has withheld weapons and ammunition from Israel in recent months,” Netanyahu said in a video address. “Secretary of State Blinken assured me that the government is working day and night to eliminate these shortages. I really hope that is the case.”

Blinken firmly rejected the criticism. When asked in Washington, he said the US was committed to ensuring that Israel had what it needed to defend itself against a wide range of threats. We are sticking to that commitment.

There is one case that US President Joe Biden made public, namely the delivery of 2,000-pound bombs, which is still being reviewed because the US government has concerns that the bombs could be used in a densely populated area like Rafah in southern Gaza. “But everything else is going on as usual,” said Blinken. When asked, a White House spokeswoman said there was only this one delivery that had been held back.

Following Netanyahu’s harsh criticism in the video, the White House canceled a meeting with high-ranking Israeli representatives that had originally been planned for Thursday in Washington, wrote well-connected Israeli journalist Barak Ravid on X last night.

The “Bild” newspaper and other media had previously reported that Blinken had signaled to Netanyahu that the restriction on arms deliveries would be lifted in the coming days. It would be easier to release the withheld delivery once Israel’s military ends its deployment in Rafah, the US news portal “Axios” quoted US officials as saying. Israel’s army has said it will soon achieve its war goals in Rafah.

Half of the Hamas fighting units in Rafah have been destroyed, it was said. 60 to 70 percent of the city’s territory is under “operational control” of Israeli troops. The offensive, which began in early May, was highly controversial because more than a million Palestinians were in Rafah at the time. Almost all of them have now fled to an area to the west, where they are difficult to provide for.