It’s “absolutely necessary” Lebanon isn’t dragged into regional conflict: EU’s top diplomat

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, stressed that it is “absolutely necessary” to avoid Lebanon “being dragged into a regional conflict” as Hezbollah engages in intensifying clashes with Israeli soldiers across the Lebanese border following Israel's assassination of a top Palestinian leader.

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah were further inflamed this week by the killing of a senior Hamas leader in Beirut.

“I am here when we are seeing a worrying intensification of exchange of fire across the blue line in the border between Lebanon and Israel,” Borrell said at a news conference in Beirut on Saturday, speaking alongside Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.

“It is imperative to avoid regional escalation in the Middle East.”

Borrell also added the entire international community needs to work toward “change in the Middle East”, noting that “we cannot continue with the deplorable, awful track record of the last year or the last decade” in the region.

Bou Habib also spoke at the news conference, telling reporters that he “strongly reaffirm(s) that peace for Lebanon is essential and that all Lebanese (people) are attached to peace”.

“The Lebanese government is actively seeking to de-escalate” the situation at the border, he continued.

Borrell will travel to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, he stated at Saturday’s news conference, where he will be discussing “concrete steps that could galvanize a serious international peace effort”.

“Nobody will win from a regional conflict,” he added, referencing growing fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spill into a wider conflict involving Iranian proxy groups like Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has also warned that any escalation in southern Lebanon will lead to a “comprehensive explosion” in the region, as exchanges of fire between the Hezbollah resistance movement and Israel continue.

Mikati made the remarks in a meeting with Borrell on Saturday, hours after Hezbollah announced it had hit an Israeli aerial surveillance base with scores of missiles in its first response to Tel Aviv’s assassination of a deputy political leader of Hamas.

Mikati went on to say that “Lebanon’s commitment to implementing UN resolution number 1701 requires stopping Israel’s violations of our sovereignty and its withdrawal from our occupied territories”.

“The full implementation of this resolution requires first stopping Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and withdrawing from the Lebanese territories it still occupies,” he added.

The Lebanese premier further called for “a comprehensive solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by giving the Palestinians their just rights.

The southern Lebanese border has seen regular exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah since Tel Aviv launched its ferocious invasion of Gaza in early October.

Nearly three months of cross-border fire have killed 175 people in Lebanon, including three journalists.

In northern occupied territories, at least 13 Israelis, including nine soldiers, have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.

The assassination of Hamas’ Deputy Chief Saleh Al-Arouri by the Israeli regime in southern Beirut on Tuesday has raised fears of further escalation.

Arouri, 57, was one of the founders of the Qassam Brigades before taking on a political portfolio in recent years.

He was seen as a key player in the movement, masterminding its operations in the West Bank from exile in Syria, Turkey, Qatar, and finally Lebanon after long stints in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli regime waged the war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas carried out the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the Israeli regime’s atrocities against Palestinians.

The relentless military campaign has killed over 22,700 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured around 57,910 others.

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