US envoy urges 'restoring calm' on Lebanon-Israel border
November 7, 2023 07:31 PM
Visiting US envoy Amos Hochstein on Tuesday urged for calm to return to Lebanon's southern border with Israel, after weeks of skirmishes following the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
"The United States does not want to see conflict in Gaza escalating and expanding into Lebanon," Hochstein told a press conference in Beirut.
"Restoring calm along the southern border is of utmost importance to the United States and it should be the highest priority for both Lebanon and Israel," he added.
Since Hamas fighters launched a shock October 7 attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon's southern border has seen intensifying tit-for-tat exchanges, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah, an ally of the Palestinian group, stoking fears of a broader conflagration.
Palestinian fighters from both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have also claimed attacks and infiltration attempts from Lebanon, while Israel has been striking the country's south and sending reconnaissance drones across the border, according to the official National News Agency (NNA).
Since the end of a 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group has not had a visible military presence on Lebanon's southern border, which is patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 ended the 2006 war and called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from the hands of everyone except the Lebanese army and other state security forces.
Hochstein urged all parties to use Resolution 1701 "and fully implement it", following a meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.
Since October 7, the cross-border skirmishes have killed at least 83 people on the Lebanese side, according to an AFP tally -- mostly Hezbollah fighters but also 11 civilians, including a journalist.
On the Israeli side, six soldiers and two civilians have been killed.
Three girls, aged 10, 12 and 14, and their grandmother were buried Tuesday, an AFP correspondent said, days after the NNA said an Israeli strike hit their vehicle in south Lebanon.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Friday that war between Israel and Hamas could turn into a regional conflict if attacks on Gaza continue, placing responsibility on the United States.
Hamas' attack on southern Israel left over 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians, with the group taking more than 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel has relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip since then, killing more than 10,300, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.