Netanyahu Ready To Wind Down Gaza Operations To Battle Hezbollah In North

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jun 24, 2024 - 07:05 PM

Several Western officials have warned that the Middle East is on the brink of a wider war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah, which includes a fresh statement by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warning "We are on the eve of the war expanding."

"The risk of this war affecting the south of Lebanon and spilling over is every day bigger," Borrell told reporters while going into a foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the Israeli border on June 21, 2024. AFP/Getty Images

This follows days ago Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah declaring that if Israel launches a bigger offensive, "nowhere would be safe" and even EU member Cyprus could come under fire given its historic cooperation with Israel's military. Greek and Cypriot leaders condemned the threat as "absolutely unacceptable".

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also on Monday confirmed she'll travel to Lebanon soon as part of a diplomatic push to avoid escalation. "A further escalation would be a catastrophe for people in the region," she said.

A Sunday interview by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did nothing to calm things, but has only ratcheted tensions, given he signaled that winding down Gaza operations in the south will mean taking a bigger fight to Hezbollah in the north:

Netanyahu said in a lengthy TV interview that while the army is close to completing its current ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, that would not mean the war is over. But he said fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to battle Hezbollah.

"We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that," he told Israel's Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu TV channel, in an interview that was frequently interrupted by applause from the studio audience.

First and foremost, for defense," he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

″We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that," Netanyahu declared, while also saying he's still open to diplomatic solution but that the problem can be solved "in a different way" if needed. 

Meanwhile there are fresh reports that France is offering the Lebanese government a military deal if its armed forces agree to push Hezbollah away from the Israeli border. Paris wants the Lebanese army to launch a security operation to move Hezbollah back to the Litani River, however, the scenario is far-fetched.

"Nothing will happen without a political green light," a French official told an international publication, "[but] we need to be prepared to facilitate an increased presence of the LAF in South Lebanon to contribute to the security of [the] Lebanese people and to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and territory."

Amid a daily escalating tit-for-tat exchange of drone and rocket attacks, Iranian fighters are offering to travel to south Lebanon to support Hezbollah. The Associated Press writes that "Thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups in the Middle East are ready to come to Lebanon to join with the militant Hezbollah group in its battle with Israel if the simmering conflict escalates into a full-blown war, officials with Iran-backed factions and analysts say." This underscores how easily this could blow up into massive confrontation between Israel and Iran.