US envoy Amos Hochstein arrives in Beirut for Hezbollah-Israel ceasefire talks

Trip comes amid fears a wider war in the Middle East could be on the horizon

US makes diplomatic push in Lebanon over Israel-Hezbollah hostilities

US makes diplomatic push in Lebanon over Israel-Hezbollah hostilities
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

US envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Beirut on Monday as part of a US-led diplomatic effort to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as fears mount over the prospect of an all-out war.

Mr Hochstein’s visit comes on the same day Hezbollah announced it had thwarted an attempted infiltration by Israeli forces overnight. Also on Monday morning, one foreign worker was killed and seven wounded by an anti-tank guided missile launched into northern Israel from Lebanon, according to Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The two incidents were further testament to the steadily increasing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah amid fears any miscalculation could spark a major war between the neighbouring countries.

An escalation between Israel and Hezbollah "will not help the Lebanese or the Israelis return to their homes”, Mr Hochstein told the media following a meeting with parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, one of multiple Lebanese officials the US envoy is meeting with as he engages in a flurry of diplomacy.

Tens of thousands of residents on both sides of the border have been displaced from their homes.

Mr Hochstein’s diplomatic efforts have intensified in parallel with Israeli threats of a full-scale military operation to force Hezbollah north of Lebanon’s Litani River. Israel says it is seeking to ensure the safe return of its citizens, most of whom have been evacuated from their homes in the northern border area.

Hezbollah has repeatedly said any halt in hostilities on the Lebanon-Israel front would be contingent on a ceasefire in Gaza, but it has shown little interest in a full-blown war. Instead, the group has been seeking to contain the conflict in the south.

In the absence of a diplomatic solution, the Iran-backed group has indicated it is ready should Israel choose to escalate the conflict.

"There is no such thing as a limited war,” Mr Hochstein said, apparently addressing Hezbollah's wish to maintain a contained conflict. "The diplomatic solution is the only way out.”

"Any truce in Gaza will not necessarily extend automatically to Lebanon," he added.

The envoy underscored the US's commitment to reaching a truce in the Gaza Strip as well as halting the fighting on the Lebanon-Israel front.

Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging fire since the start of the war in Gaza.

The cross-border conflict began on October 8, when Hezbollah announced the opening of the southern Lebanese front in support of its ally Hamas in Gaza. The border war was intended to divert Israeli troops from Gaza, where more than 30,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s onslaught.

Israel is responding to the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which about 1,200 people were killed, although its continuing military operations have not succeeded in its stated objective of eliminating Hamas.

Lebanon's deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab told Reuters he believed the timing of Mr Hochstein’s visit was a sign of progress in securing a Gaza truce "within the next few hours or days".

"If this happens, I believe that Hochstein's visit this time will be of great importance to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed for stability and ending the possibility of the expansion of the war with Lebanon," he said.

Updated: March 04, 2024, 6:43 PM