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20 June, 2024
 
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Israel proposes Hezbollah relocation 6 miles from border

Concerns grow over escalation beyond Gaza conflict

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In a bid to alleviate tensions with Lebanon, Israel has communicated to the Biden administration its desire to push Hezbollah's forces approximately 6 miles away from the border, according to a report by Axios. This diplomatic maneuver aims to prevent escalating border skirmishes from evolving into a more extensive conflict, surpassing the recent Gaza conflict.

Amid the Gaza conflict, Hezbollah initiated attacks on Israeli military outposts along the border, deploying rockets and drones into northern Israel. The Israeli government, responding to potential threats from Hezbollah's elite Radwan forces, evacuated tens of thousands of civilians from nearby villages and towns. To restore normalcy, Israel asserts that the situation requires either a diplomatic resolution or military intervention.

President Biden's senior adviser, Amos Hochstein, alongside other U.S. officials, has been actively engaged in pursuing a diplomatic solution. However, progress has been limited so far.

Behind closed doors, discussions revolving around tensions on the Lebanese border took center stage during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu and Gallant conveyed Israel's reluctance to accept the prolonged displacement of tens of thousands of citizens due to the security situation across the border. The proposed deal includes relocating Hezbollah's forces to a safe distance, and preventing attacks on Israeli villages and towns, similar to the raid conducted by Hamas on October 7.

Israel emphasized that, as part of any agreement, Hezbollah should not be permitted to return to its former positions along the border, which were destroyed by Israel in the preceding two months.

U.S. and Israeli officials reported that Austin reassured Netanyahu and Gallant about the Biden administration's understanding of Israeli concerns, advocating for a peaceful solution. However, Israel was urged to allow time and space for diplomatic efforts without taking actions that might escalate tensions. Netanyahu and Gallant expressed Israel's willingness to give diplomacy a chance but stressed the need for visible progress in the coming weeks.

The discussions also focused on transitioning away from the high-intensity phase of the conflict. Civilian casualties in Gaza, outpacing those in other conflict zones in the 21st century, have prompted calls for a reevaluation of the military strategy. Israeli and U.S. officials acknowledged Israel's claim of fewer Palestinian civilian casualties in recent weeks compared to the conflict's initial stages.

Austin suggested a shift toward more surgical operations, advocating the use of ground forces over air strikes in a new phase of the conflict. The Biden administration believes that adopting lower-intensity fighting will reduce civilian casualties, facilitate more significant humanitarian aid to Gaza, and mitigate the risk of a broader regional war.

During a press conference with Gallant, Austin emphasized that the U.S. does not dictate terms or timelines for Israel's operation in Gaza but discussed strategies for transitioning to more targeted military actions.

[Information sourced from Axios]

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Cyprus  |  Israel  |  Lebanon

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