Army Chief: Israel Nears Decision on Lebanon Border Offensive

04 June 2024, Lebanon, Naqura: A view of rubble of destroyed houses caused by Israeli air raids are seen in the Lebanese southern village of Naqura, located at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa
04 June 2024, Lebanon, Naqura: A view of rubble of destroyed houses caused by Israeli air raids are seen in the Lebanese southern village of Naqura, located at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa
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Army Chief: Israel Nears Decision on Lebanon Border Offensive

04 June 2024, Lebanon, Naqura: A view of rubble of destroyed houses caused by Israeli air raids are seen in the Lebanese southern village of Naqura, located at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa
04 June 2024, Lebanon, Naqura: A view of rubble of destroyed houses caused by Israeli air raids are seen in the Lebanese southern village of Naqura, located at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa

Israel is ready for an offensive along the northern border with Lebanon and is nearing a decision, the chief of staff said on Tuesday.

The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, which has been fought in parallel to the Gaza war, has intensified in recent days.

Israeli Military Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi said the army was ready to move to an offensive in the north.

"We are prepared after a very good process of training up to the level of a General Staff exercise to move to an offensive in the north," he said in a recorded statement. "We are approaching a decision point."

Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told broadcaster Al Jazeera that the group's decision was not to widen the war but that it would fight one if it was imposed on it. Qassem said the Lebanon front would not stop until the Gaza war stops, Al Jazeera quoted him as saying.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington does "not support a full war with Hezbollah" but Israel had the right to defend itself from Hezbollah attacks.

"We've heard Israeli leaders say the solution that they prefer is a diplomatic solution. And obviously that is the solution that we prefer too and that we're trying to pursue," he said.

The European Union said it was "increasingly concerned" about rising tensions and forced displacement of civilians on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border and called for restraint from all sides.

"Nobody stands to win from a broader regional conflict," the EU said in a statement. "A de-escalation of the situation would significantly contribute to the settlement of the broader conflict in the Middle East."

Israeli government spokesperson David Mencer said the fighting in the area was "not a sustainable reality", adding that Israel was committed to ensuring the return home of tens of thousands of Israelis evacuated from the north.

"It is up to Hezbollah to decide if this can be accomplished by diplomatic means or by force," he said. "We are defending this country and no one should be surprised by our response."

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden at the heart of diplomatic efforts seeking de-escalation, said last week a land border agreement between Israel and Lebanon implemented in phases could dampen the conflict.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir urged more military action.

"There cannot be peace in Lebanon while our land is hit and people here are evacuated," Ben-Gvir said following a tour in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona in a video statement shared on X. "They're setting fires here, we must burn all of Hezbollah's strongholds, destroy them. War!"

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are members of Israel's security cabinet but not of the war cabinet.



Syrian Observatory: Türkiye Forcibly Deporting Thousands of Syrians

Syrian refugees at one of the crossings between Türkiye and Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
Syrian refugees at one of the crossings between Türkiye and Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
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Syrian Observatory: Türkiye Forcibly Deporting Thousands of Syrians

Syrian refugees at one of the crossings between Türkiye and Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
Syrian refugees at one of the crossings between Türkiye and Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)

Türkiye has forcibly deported early in July, 3,540 Syrians with temporary protection identity cards to northern Syria, in addition to 840 refugees in the past 7 days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday
“Turkish authorities forcibly detained more than 125 Syrian families, including children and women, in deportation centers in the province of Kayseri, as Ankara is preparing to send them back to Syria,” SOHR said.
It added that on Friday, 120 Syrians were already deported through the Turkish border crossings towards northern Syria.
According to the Observatory, “Türkiye is forcibly deporting more than 100 Syrians every day, most of them holding temporary protection ID card (Kimlik), with the aim of settling them in areas under its control in the Euphrates Shield, the Olive Branch and the Peace Spring.
SOHR condemned the “humiliating way and inhumane treatment” by Turkish authorities towards Syrian refugees forcibly being deported back to their country.
It also called on the international community to “assume its responsibilities towards protecting Syrian refugees in Türkiye and prevent their deportation under the pretext of sending them to a safe zone.”
The Turkish government said on Friday it was deporting at least seven Syrians for “provocatively” sharing their images while eating bananas on social media after a Turkish citizen complained that he cannot afford bananas while the refugees can, according to Bloomberg.
Three weeks ago, tensions rose between Turks and Syrian refugees after the arrest of a Syrian man who had been accused of harassing a child.
Turkish police then arrested 474 of people during anti-Syrian riots in several cities, damaging businesses and properties belonging to the Syrians.