By Steve Holland and Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House senior adviser Amos Hochstein is expected to visit Beirut on Thursday, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, as part of U.S. efforts to ease tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Washington fears that Israel’s war in Gaza will spread violence in the region, with armed groups backed by main rival Iran launching solidarity attacks in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with the Israeli army across Lebanon’s southern border since the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza three months ago, provoking a massive Israeli assault on the Palestinian enclave .
The border violence has forced tens of thousands of people on both sides to flee and raised fears that the conflict in Gaza could spread to the rest of the region.
Lebanon’s interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati told a senior United Nations official on Tuesday that his country was ready to begin negotiations on long-term stability on its southern border with Israel.
Hochstein, the US energy envoy, last year raised the possibility of talks on the delineation of the land border between Israel and Lebanon, after negotiating a 2022 agreement setting the maritime borders between the two countries.
Israel said it was giving diplomacy a chance to prevent Hezbollah from shooting at people living in the north and push Hezbollah from the border, warning that the Israeli military would otherwise take steps to achieve those goals.
More than 130 Hezbollah fighters were killed in Lebanon during the hostilities. Hezbollah has said it is not seeking a full-scale war, but would not hold back if Israel started one.
The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 left 1,200 dead, according to Israeli figures. The ensuing Israeli offensive killed more than 23,000 Gazans, or about 1 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by William Mallard)
Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.