Hochstein: US Wants to Avoid 'Greater War' along Tense Lebanon-Israel Border

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon
Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon
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Hochstein: US Wants to Avoid 'Greater War' along Tense Lebanon-Israel Border

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon
Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

The United States is trying to avert a greater war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, US envoy Amos Hochstein said on Tuesday, following an escalation in cross-border fire between the foes along Lebanon's southern frontier.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel for the last eight months in parallel with the Gaza war. Last week, the group fired the largest volleys of rockets and drones of the hostilities so far at Israeli military sites, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior commander yet.

Hochstein, special envoy to US President Joe Biden, said he had been dispatched to Lebanon immediately following a brief trip to Israel because the situation was "serious".

"We have seen an escalation over the last few weeks. And what President Biden wants to do is avoid a further escalation to a greater war," Hochstein said on Tuesday.

He had met the head of Lebanon's army earlier on Tuesday and spoke to reporters following a meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the armed Amal movement, which is allied to Hezbollah and has also fired rockets on Israel.

The US and France are engaged in diplomatic efforts to secure a negotiated end to the hostilities along Lebanon's border. Hezbollah says it will not halt its attacks unless there is a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

"Whether diplomatically or militarily one way or another, we will ensure the safe and secure return of Israelis to their homes in northern Israel. That is not up for negotiation. Oct. 7 cannot happen again anywhere in Israel or on any of Israel's borders," Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said.

He added that Israel was "impeding Hezbollah's military buildup and their stockpiling of weapons for terror against Israelis".

Hezbollah began trading fire with Israel on Oct. 8, a day after its Palestinian ally Hamas attacked southern Israel, sparking the Gaza war. Tens of thousands of people have fled both sides of the border.

DRONE ATTACK

Hochstein urged Hamas to accept a US-backed proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, which he said "also provides an opportunity to end the conflict across the Blue Line", a reference to a demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel where parts of the international border are disputed.

Hochstein met caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who told him that "Lebanon does not seek escalation", according to comments issued by Mikati's office.

The increase in attacks last week was followed by a brief respite during the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, which concludes on Tuesday. Hezbollah announced a drone attack against an Israeli tank on Tuesday afternoon - its first announced attack since Saturday.

The group used more of its extensive arsenal against Israel last week, prompting United Nations officials in Lebanon to warn over the weekend that the "danger of miscalculation leading to a sudden and wider conflict is very real".

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday that he too was worried about the escalation, and called "for a cessation of hostilities and for actors with influence to take all possible measures to avert a full-scale war".



Chinese Citizen Missing in Syria’s Suwaida

 Visa entry of Chinese citizen Han Mingyi who went missing in Suwaida, south Syria (Suwaida 24)
 Visa entry of Chinese citizen Han Mingyi who went missing in Suwaida, south Syria (Suwaida 24)
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Chinese Citizen Missing in Syria’s Suwaida

 Visa entry of Chinese citizen Han Mingyi who went missing in Suwaida, south Syria (Suwaida 24)
 Visa entry of Chinese citizen Han Mingyi who went missing in Suwaida, south Syria (Suwaida 24)

A Chinese citizen on a visit to Syria reportedly went missing on Monday during a trip to the city of Suwaida in southern Syria.
“The weather is nice and comfortable” is the last message a Chinese national texted to his friend in Damascus, informing him that he had arrived in Suwaida.
All contact was later cut off with the tourist, according to activists in the Syrian province who said that the Chinese citizen Han Mingyi, arrived in Suwaida last Monday, then disappeared.
The Suwayda 24 news website published a photo of the tourist’s entry visa to Syria with his personal data.
Born in 2003, Mingyi was a guest in a hotel owned by a Chinese person in the capital, Damascus.
The tourist said he was traveling to the province of Daraa, but hours after he left Damascus, Mingyi texted the hotel owner and informed him that he had arrived in Suwaida.
All contacts with him were then lost.
A source from the security services in the province told the news website “there was no report of a missing Chinese tourist in Suwaida or Daraa until this hour.”
The source explained that tourists usually travel in tour groups, and are under security surveillance.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said contact with the Chinese tourist in Suwaida has been lost for days, also listing reports about his kidnapping.
The Observatory noted that the Chinese embassy received a report of the disappearance of the tourist while he was leaving the capital towards southern Syria.
It added that it lost contact with him in the Suwaida province after the man made a phone call with the “hotel owner.”
Despite the presence of security checkpoints, chaos reigns in cities of southern Syria amid the spread of armed gangs, kidnapping, robbery and car theft gangs.
Sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that despite the fragility of security in Syria, Europeans and Chinese nationals did not stop visiting the country during the war, but that the majority of them are employees of international organizations and companies.
“During the war, we saw Chinese employees visiting different Syrian areas and sightseeing on the sidelines of their missions,” the sources said.
They said China has already expressed its hopes to play an active role in solving the Syrian crisis, and had appointed a special envoy to Syria in 2016.
However, the sources added that China's ambitions were hit by instability and international economic sanctions on Damascus that continue to impede investment.