Israel warns about Lebanon border hostilities: “The hourglass for a political settlement is running out”

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Israeli government minister Benny Gantz, one of three men who make up the country’s emergency war cabinet, is threatening to intensify Israeli military action at the Israel-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah militants have been firing at northern Israel.

“I want to say to the world: The situation on the northern border requires a change,” Gantz said at a press conference late Wednesday, adding that residents of border communities who have been evacuated due to the fighting there need to be returned to their homes.

“The hourglass for a political settlement is running out. If the world and Lebanon’s government will not work to stop the shooting at Israel and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will do so,” Gantz said.

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces had “high readiness” for an expansion of fighting in the north but that “the first task is to return the residents home with a sense of security, and this will take time.”

ISRAEL-LEBANON-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT
This photo taken from a position along the border in northern Israel on Dec. 27, 2023 shows smoke billowing in the southern Lebanese village of Marwahin following Israeli bombardment amid ongoing cross-border tensions. JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, toured Israel’s northern border on Wednesday and said Hezbollah must respect the 2006 cease-fire that calls on the group to withdraw from the border area or Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah “must understand that he’s next,” The Associated Press reports.

“We will operate to make the most of the diplomatic option,” Cohen said. “If it doesn’t work, all options are on the table.”

The Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah has been firing rockets and artillery and sending drones over the Lebanese border with Israel in support of Hamas on a regular basis since the war began on October 7.

Israel has also been firing into Lebanon, killing over 150 people there, mainly Hezbollah militants, according to the AFP news agency. At least 20 deaths have been civilians, and three of them have been journalists, AFP reports.

On the Israeli side of the Lebanon border, at least nine soldiers and four civilians have been killed in hostilities, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces bombed locations across Gaza overnight, killing dozens of people. Over 21,000 people have been killed so far in the hostilities there, according to the Hamas-run authority there, and 85% of the population has been displaced. 

Palestinians fleeing the expanded Israeli operations in central Gaza have filled up shelters near the border with Egypt, and the United Nations humanitarian office says the intense fighting in the enclave is impeding its ability to deliver aid.

The U.N. says the World Food Program managed to reach about a half million people with food parcels between December 23 and 26, but UNRWA, the agency that operates within the Gaza Strip, said Thursday that 40% of the people there are now at risk of famine.

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Israel warns about Lebanon border hostilities: “The hourglass for a political settlement is running out”

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