US Envoy Tries to Calm Israel-Lebanon Tensions

Senior Advisor to the US President Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut. Photo: Parliament of Lebanon/dpa
Senior Advisor to the US President Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut. Photo: Parliament of Lebanon/dpa
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US Envoy Tries to Calm Israel-Lebanon Tensions

Senior Advisor to the US President Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut. Photo: Parliament of Lebanon/dpa
Senior Advisor to the US President Amos Hochstein (L) meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in Beirut. Photo: Parliament of Lebanon/dpa

Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon killed three Hezbollah fighters on Wednesday, the militant group said, as US envoy tasked with avoiding a devastating regional war returned to Israel after meeting officials in Lebanon.
United States President Joe Biden's senior adviser Amos Hochstein, met with House Speaker Nabih Berri and other officials in Lebanon and then travelled to Israel in his latest attempt to deescalate tensions. Hochstein told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that it was a “very serious situation” and that a diplomatic solution to prevent a larger war was urgent.
Hezbollah has new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target more critical positions deeper inside Israel in case of an all-out war, the militant group's leader warned on Wednesday.
Hassan Nasrallah’s comments came as the monthslong cross-border conflict simmering between Hezbollah and Israel appears to be reaching a boiling point, and a day after a top US envoy met Lebanese officials in his latest attempt to ease tensions.
"We now have new weapons. But I won’t say what they are," he said in a televised address commemorating a top Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon last week. “When the decision is made, they will be seen on the front lines.”
Hezbollah has used locally made explosive drones for the first time since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza in October, as well as surface-to-air missiles to chase off Israeli jets.
Nasrallah said in 2021 that Hezbollah has 100,000 fighters but now he claimed the number is much higher, without elaborating. He also said he has rejected offers from allied countries and militias in the region that could add tens of thousands to his ranks.
A nearly 10-minute-long video allegedly filmed by a Hezbollah surveillance drone and released Tuesday shows parts of Haifa — a city far from the Israel-Lebanon border. In his speech Wednesday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah has much more footage — an apparent threat it could reach sites deep in Israel.
Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, visited Israeli air-defense soldiers near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday, saying Israel was aware of Hezbollah's capabilities demonstrated in the video and has solutions for these threats.
“We of course have infinitely greater capabilities," he said. "I think the enemy is only familiar with a few of them and (we) will confront them at the right time.”
Hezbollah, an ally of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, has been exchanging strikes with Israel almost daily since the war in Gaza erupted on Oct. 7, with the aim to pull Israeli forces away from the embattled Gaza Strip.
Hezbollah's attacks escalated after Israel expanded its offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah in May, and spiked further in June after an Israeli strike killed high-ranking Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, the most senior militant killed so far during the Israel-Hamas war.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli army said it has “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon, although the decision to actually launch such an operation would have to come from the country's political leadership.
Nasrallah said a wider war with Lebanon would have regional implications and that Hezbollah would attack any other country in the region that assisted Israel in the war effort, citing Cyprus, which has hosted Israeli forces for training exercises. He suggested Cyprus might allow Israel to use its bases in event of a wider war.
In response, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said his island nation “is in no way involved” in any military operations in the region. Cyprus is “part of the solution, not part of the problem” he said, pointing out the Cyprus-Gaza maritime corridor used to deliver aid to the Palestinian territory.
Only a cease-fire in Gaza would halt the Lebanon-Israel border fighting or the attacks on Western and Israel-linked targets from Yemen's Houthis and Iraqi militias allied with Hezbollah.
Israel views Hezbollah as its most direct threat, and the two fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Hezbollah's military capabilities have grown significantly since then, and the United States and Israel estimate the group, along with other Lebanese militant factions, has about 150,000 missiles and rockets. Hezbollah also has been working on precision-guided missiles.
Hezbollah said at least four of its fighters were killed Wednesday in Israeli strikes as Hochstein returned to Israel for a new round of meetings there.
Lebanese state media reported the strikes along the border and near the coastal city of Tyre, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) away. The Israeli military said two Hezbollah launches damaged several vehicles in northern Israel.
Kamel Mohanna, the head of the Amel Association, a nongovernmental organization providing health services in different areas of Lebanon, said the association health center in the town of Khiam was hit and damaged by the Israeli shelling.
Israeli strikes have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah and other militants, but also over 80 civilians and non-combatants. In northern Israel, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed by strikes launched from Lebanon.



Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli forces advanced deeper into some towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US lawmakers he was actively engaged in bringing hostages home.
Fighting in recent days has centered around the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna, and Al-Karara, where the army said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of five Israelis who were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and held in Gaza since, Reuters said.
Hamas militants took more than 250 hostages in the early morning raid into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by vowing to eradicate Hamas in Gaza in a nine-month war that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, Gaza health officials say.
Several were wounded in the eastern towns during Israeli tank and aerial shelling, while an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, as tanks operated north, west and in the town center, residents and medics said. Several Palestinians were also wounded in Israeli fire earlier on Thursday.
The Israeli military said forces operating in Khan Younis killed dozens of militants and dismantled around 50 military infrastructures, while it continued activities in Rafah, killing two militants.
In a speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu said his government was actively involved in seeking the release of remaining hostages and was confident they would succeed.
DISAPPOINTING SPEECH
Hamas described the comments by Netanyahu as "pure lies" accusing him of thwarting efforts to end the war.
Netanyahu's comments also disappointed many displaced Palestinians who had hoped for a clearer signal of an imminent end to the fighting, which has laid the overcrowded enclave to waste and created a humanitarian crisis.
"It was depressing, he didn't even mention ceasefire at all, not even once," said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident of Gaza City, now displaced in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
"People awaited some surprise, a ceasefire announcement by Netanyahu as a gift to (US President Joe) Biden, but they slept with much disappointment, as Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue war," Burai told Reuters via a chat app.
Deir Al-Balah, where tanks haven't yet invaded, is currently overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, displaced from other areas of the enclave, home to 2.3 million people.
"Netanyahu spoke in a play, he spoke to clowns," said Burai.
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators, backed by the United States, to conclude a ceasefire deal, seemed to be on hold, as Israel was expected to send a delegation for more talks next week.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan suburb killed four people, medics said, while seven Palestinians arrived at a hospital in central Gaza who had been detained by Israeli forces and released in an area close to the border.