Western states talk with Lebanon, Israel over Hezbollah clashes

Western states talk with Lebanon, Israel over Hezbollah clashes
Wester diplomats are reportedly pushing a proposal for Hezbollah to pull its forces back from the Lebanon-Israel border to behind the Litani river.
3 min read
14 December, 2023
Deadly clashes between Israel and Hezbollah on the Lebanese Israeli border have killed over at least six Israeli soldiers and over 100 Hezbollah members, including the son of a Hezbollah MP [Photo by Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Western officials are in talks with counterparts in Israel and Lebanon as part of an initiative to prevent a wider war between Israel and Hezbollah following months of deadly border clashes.

The officials, who according to the Financial Times come from the US, the UK and France, are attempting to broker an agreement that would see an implementation of the UN resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

As part of said agreement, Hezbollah would pull its forces back from the Lebanon-Israel border to behind the Litani river, with the Lebanese Armed Forces being strengthened by Western states.

The UN's peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, whose role it is to monitor the border and prevent clashes, could also be strengthened as part of an agreement.

However, according to a Western official quoted by FT, there will be difficulty getting to a solution because "you need to get Israel and Hezbollah to stop fighting first, and you need to get Hezbollah to acquiesce".

Hezbollah's withdrawal from southern Lebanon would be difficult to achieve as the Shia-dominated region is where Hezbollah first emerged, retaining support and membership from its residents.

It has also fought numerous times against Israel in the region, including Israel's occupation of south Lebanon in the 80s and 90s until its withdrawal in 2000, and against an Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006 that sought to destroy the group.

Likewise, according to a Lebanese official, the government is also concerned about Israeli violations, such as incursions over Lebanese airspace that consist of military flights over Beirut, and military presence in disputed areas like the Shebaa Farms, where clashes often occur between Hezbollah and Israel.

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The official said that Israel is using Gaza "as a lever to try pre-empt us or pressure us".

"Let's think constructively, put 1701 on the table and see who is violating it, and let's try and reinvigorate its implementation," they added.

Israeli officials have been increasing their public rhetoric against Hezbollah in recent weeks as clashes between the two enter their third month.

National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi stated that Israel would "impose a new reality" in south Lebanon if Hezbollah did not withdraw behind the Litani river. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened that Israel would turn south Lebanon into Gaza, referring to the brutal destruction of the Palestinian territory.

Despite the comments, clashes between the two have persisted on the front that Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah described as a "front of pressure" aimed at tying Israeli resources away from its operation in Gaza.

Since the start of clashes on 8 October, over 100 members of Hezbollah and Palestinian groups have been killed. Israel'sn army has announced the deaths of 6 Israeli soldiers, with dozens more wounded.