The country’s top diplomat has claimed Hezbollah’s presence near the border is a major risk, according to local media
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has warned the UN that the Middle East could descend into a full-scale war if Hezbollah militants remain in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel, local media have reported.
Israel’s Channel 12 claimed that the diplomat issued the warning following weeks of sporadic shelling and skirmishes on the Israeli-Lebanese frontier. The clashes have intensified since the deadly incursion by Palestinian militant group Hamas into Israel on October 7.
Hezbollah says it has joined the militants in Gaza in their fight against Israel, but has thus far stopped short of launching a major offensive from Lebanon. The Shiite organization has long-standing ties to Iran, and is believed to be far better equipped and more formidable than the Palestinian groups operating in Gaza and in the West Bank.
Reporting on Tuesday, Channel 12 claimed that Cohen had directed his warning to the UN Security Council, urging it to enforce Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolution also called for the disarmament and withdrawal of all irregular Lebanese armed groups, including Hezbollah, from south of the Litani River near the Israeli border.
Failure by a UN peacekeeping force to fully implement the measures could result in a regional war, Cohen predicted, as quoted by the channel.
“For the benefit of regional stability and to prevent further escalation – the next discussion of the UN Security Council must adopt a completely different approach to end the dangerous violations by Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations on the border,” his message reportedly said.
Earlier this month, the Times of Israel quoted Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as warning Hezbollah that it was “close to making a grave mistake.” The official also reportedly stressed that “what we are doing in Gaza, we know how to do in Beirut.”
His alleged threats echoed those made previously by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared in a televised address that the movement was striving to help Hamas achieve victory against the “aggressor.” He further claimed that Hezbollah militants had already entered the fray, and were tying up considerable Israeli forces in the north of the country.
Nasrallah also warned the Israeli leadership that they would be committing the “most foolish mistake in your existence” should they attack Lebanon.
Tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border have thus far mostly taken the form of rocket, mortar, and small arms fire by Hezbollah, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responding with artillery and drone strikes.
According to the Israeli military, it has killed more than 70 Lebanese militants since October 7.
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