July 19, 2024

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The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza: live updates and latest news

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza: live updates and latest news

Important news

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to President Biden, met Tuesday with senior Lebanese officials in Beirut, where he pressed for a diplomatic solution as deadly skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, worsen the situation in Israel. Lebanon’s borders are dangerously volatile.

Over the past eight months, as the war in Gaza rages, another battle has erupted along Israel’s northern border. At the time, Hezbollah, a well-armed and battle-tested fighting force, and the Israeli army played a risky game of eye for an eye, carrying out attacks that flexed their muscle but avoided all-out war. Despite the parties’ measured approach, civilians were killed in both countries and more than 150,000 people fled. Their homes are along the border.

As the fighting intensifies, any miscalculation threatens to drag both sides into a broader escalation. Given Hezbollah’s strength as a fighting force, a full-scale war between Israel and the group could devastate both countries.

“The situation is dangerous,” Hochstein told reporters in Beirut. “We have seen an escalation over the past few weeks, and what President Biden wants to do is avoid further escalation into a bigger war.”

He added: “It will take everyone’s interests to end this conflict now, and we believe there is a diplomatic path to doing so – if both parties agree to it.”

Hezbollah, the most powerful military and political force in Lebanon, is much stronger and better armed than when it fought its last war with Israel in 2006. In contrast to Hamas, the Palestinian militia fighting Israel in Gaza, Hezbollah forces are highly trained fighters. The group possesses long-range, precision-guided missiles that can strike targets deep inside Israel.

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In Israel, military planners see the specter of the October 7 Hamas attack – during which Palestinian militants streamed through the supposedly well-protected Gaza barrier – looming over their northern border. But what is worrying is that a similar attack by Hezbollah would include the party’s elite units.

Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general, said the sheer number of munitions in Hezbollah’s arsenal — especially its cache of drones — could overwhelm Israel’s air defenses in the event of a full-scale war.

General Broome said Hezbollah fighters also have combat experience in the Syrian civil war, where they intervened on the side of the Assad regime, which is also backed by Iran.

“In a borderless war, there would be greater destruction on the civilian home front and deep inside Israel,” said General Brom, a former chief military planner. He said: “They have the ability to target any place in Israel in one way or another and will target civilian targets, just as we will target southern Beirut,” referring to areas of the capital known to be Hezbollah strongholds.

For Hezbollah, the major escalation is similarly worrying. The Lebanese economy was in disarray even before the current crisis, and many Lebanese have little desire for a repeat of the 2006 war, a month-long battle that left more than 1,000 Lebanese and 165 Israelis dead and displaced more than a million people.

The current fighting began shortly after October 7, when Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, launched attacks on northern Israel in a show of solidarity. Israel responded shortly after.

Last week, an Israeli raid killed a senior Hezbollah commander, Talib Abdullah, prompting Hezbollah to intensify its attacks on Israel in response. In the next few days, Hezbollah launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel in coordinated strikes, wounding numerous soldiers and civilians.

Soldiers carry the coffin of Talib Abdullah, a senior Hezbollah commander who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Beirut last week.credit…Wael Hamza/EPA, via Shutterstock

US envoy Hochstein is visiting the region this week in hopes of calming tensions between the two sides. On Monday, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the country’s president and defense minister, in an attempt to advance a diplomatic solution.

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Despite the risks, Mr. Netanyahu has faced increasing pressure at home to intensify the country’s military campaign against Hezbollah.

Tens of thousands of Israelis from border communities remain scattered across the country with no timetable for returning to their homes. Far-right members of Netanyahu’s coalition have called for more strong measures, including the establishment of an Israeli-run “security zone” inside Lebanese territory.