Amos Hochstein: Ceasefire in Gaza might not extend to Lebanon

Amos Hochstein: Ceasefire in Gaza might not extend to Lebanon
US Mediator Amos Hochstein said during his visit to the Lebanese capital on Monday that a Gaza ceasefire might not halt fighting on the Lebanese-Israel border.
3 min read
05 March, 2024
Fighting between Hezbollah and Israel has steadily escalated since the beginning of the new year. [Getty]

US mediator Amos Hochstein said on Monday that a ceasefire in Gaza would not "automatically" end fighting between Israel and Lebanon along their shared border during a visit to Beirut seeking to deescalate tensions between the two countries.

Fighting between Hezbollah and Israel started in the wake of Hamas's 7 October surprise attack on the Gaza envelope.

In the five months since it began, daily fighting has steadily escalated to encompass broad swathes of Lebanon, killing at least 229 Hezbollah fighters and 47 Lebanese civilians.

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On the Israeli side, at least ten soldiers and ten civilians have been killed – though Hezbollah claims the Israeli casualty figure is greater.

"It does not necessarily happen that when you have a ceasefire in Gaza, it just automatically extends" to Lebanon, Hochstein said after a meeting with Lebanese speaker of the house Nabih Berri.

Lebanese group Hezbollah has repeatedly said that it would cease fighting with Israel should a ceasefire be applied in Gaza – though Israel has said it would redouble its efforts on the Lebanese front.

Hochstein's visit on Monday was his third to Beirut since the beginning of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.

He carried with him proposals to entice both Lebanon and Israel to cease hostilities and to create a lasting peace on their shared border.

Reportedly, the proposals include the beginning of negotiations to settle disputed zones along the Israel-Lebanese border, as well as a proposal to expand the presence of the Lebanese army in border zones and deploy watchtowers along the border to ensure compliance with international resolutions.

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Hochstein previously engaged in a similar style of shuttle diplomacy between the two countries – who are still technically in a state of war and do not communicate directly – to settle their maritime border.

The land border, however, does not carry the same economic incentives that the maritime border does, a precursor to the extraction of hydrocarbon fields.

Hezbollah has repeatedly said that it would not engage in any negotiations with Israel until a ceasefire in Gaza is achieved.

Israel has said that it would not stop fighting on the Lebanese front until the safety of the some 100,000 displaced residents from northern Israel is guaranteed.

Israeli officials have linked the return of northern residents with Hezbollah's withdrawal from beyond the Litani river, some 30 kilometers from the border.

Over 90,000 southern Lebanese residents have been displaced from border areas since fighting began.

Hochstein urged both sides to find an off ramp for fighting, saying that "escalation will neither assist the Lebanese nor the Israelis in returning to their homes."

Talks for a ceasefire in Gaza reportedly collapsed on Tuesday, with the delegation representing Hamas leaving Cairo with no results.

Mediators had previously been trying to forge a six-week ceasefire deal in Gaza before Ramadan, which would see Palestinian hostages released in exchange for Israeli hostages taken on 7 October.