In Lebanon, Top French Diplomat Seeks Israel-Hezbollah De-Escalation

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
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In Lebanon, Top French Diplomat Seeks Israel-Hezbollah De-Escalation

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP

France's top diplomat on Sunday urged de-escalation between Israel and the Hezbollah movement during his second visit to Lebanon since cross-border tensions flared alongside the Gaza war.
Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group have exchanged near-daily fire since Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel sparked the war in Gaza.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks, with Israel striking deeper into Lebanese territory, while Hezbollah has stepped up its missile and drone attacks on military positions in northern Israel, said AFP.
The United States has led diplomatic efforts to halt violence along the border with Israel, with France also seeking ways to calm tensions.
Paris presented to both Lebanon and Israel an initiative earlier this year seeking to end hostilities.
"We refuse a worst-case scenario... No one has any interest in Israel and Hezbollah continuing this escalation. This is my message here," French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne told reporters in Beirut.
He said he "will bring this same message to Israel on Tuesday,"
Hezbollah has repeatedly declared that only a ceasefire in Gaza will put an end to its attacks on Israel.
A French diplomatic source told AFP that the volume of cross-border attacks had doubled since April 13.
Ahead of the press conference Sejourne met Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, army chief Joseph Aoun and influential parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.
Proposals 'to avoid war'
A return to stability "requires the redeployment of armed forces in southern Lebanon," he added, referring to a region where Hezbollah holds sway.
In March, Beirut submitted its response to the French initiative, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
The resolution called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from everyone except the army and other state security forces.
The objective of that roadmap, Sejourne said, "is to achieve the full implementation by all parties of Security Council Resolution 1701."
Berri and Mikati both said that Lebanon was keen on implementing the UN resolution, according to separate statements following their meetings with Sejourne.
"The French initiative constitutes a practical framework for implementing Resolution 1701, which Lebanon is committed to implementing in full, while demanding Israel commit to it and stop its destructive aggression against southern Lebanon," Mikati said in a statement.
More than four years into an economic collapse, and essentially leaderless, Lebanon is ill-prepared for regional conflict.
Mikati has for about two years headed a caretaker government with reduced powers after a general election failed to deliver a majority to either of Lebanon's rival power blocs.
The country has not had a president since late 2022 when Michel Aoun's mandate ended without agreement on a successor.
"Without an elected president, without a fully-functioning government, Lebanon will not... be invited to the discussion table," he said.
Earlier in the day Sejourne visited the headquarters of the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), which includes around 700 French troops.
Sejourne reiterated that Paris has been making proposals to "avoid war in Lebanon".
Since October 8 at least 385 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 254 Hezbollah fighters and dozens of civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says 11 soldiers and nine civilians have been killed on its side of the border.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides.



Israeli Strike Kills ‘al-Jamaa al-Islamiya’ Leader in Eastern Lebanon

Emergency and security service members and residents gather around the carcass of a car at the site of an Israeli strike in al-Khiyara town in Lebanon's Western Bekaa area on June 22, 2024, which killed a member of the Jamaa Islamiya group according to a Lebanese security source. (Photo by Hassan JARRAH / AFP)
Emergency and security service members and residents gather around the carcass of a car at the site of an Israeli strike in al-Khiyara town in Lebanon's Western Bekaa area on June 22, 2024, which killed a member of the Jamaa Islamiya group according to a Lebanese security source. (Photo by Hassan JARRAH / AFP)
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Israeli Strike Kills ‘al-Jamaa al-Islamiya’ Leader in Eastern Lebanon

Emergency and security service members and residents gather around the carcass of a car at the site of an Israeli strike in al-Khiyara town in Lebanon's Western Bekaa area on June 22, 2024, which killed a member of the Jamaa Islamiya group according to a Lebanese security source. (Photo by Hassan JARRAH / AFP)
Emergency and security service members and residents gather around the carcass of a car at the site of an Israeli strike in al-Khiyara town in Lebanon's Western Bekaa area on June 22, 2024, which killed a member of the Jamaa Islamiya group according to a Lebanese security source. (Photo by Hassan JARRAH / AFP)

A security source said a leader of the Lebanese militant group al-Jamaa al-Islamiya was killed Saturday in an Israeli strike on a vehicle in eastern Lebanon.
Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah and other groups allied with the Palestinian Hamas group have traded near-daily fire with Israel across the southern border.
"A leader of the al-Fajr Forces of the al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, Ayman Ghotmeh, was killed in an Israeli strike in Khiara in the western Bekaa," 10 kilometers (six miles) from the border with Syria, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Fajr Forces, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya's armed wing, was established in 1982 to fight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
The group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against Israel, including joint operations with Hamas in Lebanon. It is estimated to number around 500 men.
Lebanon's state-run ANI news agency reported one person killed when a car was targeted in Khiara, and that the victim was from the nearby village of Lala, without giving further details.
Israel's military said an aircraft carried out a "precise strike in the Beqaa area in Lebanon in order to eliminate the terrorist" Ayman Ghotmeh, who they said supplied weapons to Hamas and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in Lebanon.
He was targeted for his "involvement in the promotion and execution of terrorist activities against Israel", the Israeli statement added.
Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, which has had seven fighters killed in Lebanon since October 7, did not immediately announce any deaths.
On April 26, the group said two of their leaders were killed in an Israeli strike in eastern Lebanon.
More than eight months of violence on the Israel-Lebanon border has left at least 480 people dead in Lebanon, mostly fighters but including at least 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.
Heightened tensions in recent days on the Israel-Lebanon border have raised fears of an expanded regional conflict.