Monday, December 4, 2023

US downplays risk of Hezbollah offensive against Israel

The United States has seen no signs that Hezbollah is preparing for a major military operation against Israel, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about continued attacks on Israeli forces there in the north, as are the Israelis,” Kirby said.

“But I don’t believe we’ve seen any indication yet specifically that Hezbollah is ready to go in full force,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the powerful group announced it had struck 19 Israeli positions across the Lebanese border. Hezbollah has also confirmed that about 50 of its fighters have died over the past month in clashes with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to make his first public speech since Israel went to war with Hamas. A Hezbollah video going viral on social media is suggesting Nasrallah will “push the button” and openly enter the conflict, as Yemen has already done.

“We’ll see what he has to say”, is how Kirby responded when asked what the US was expecting from Nasrallah’s speech.

The US has warned Hezbollah to stay out of the conflict, he added, noting that “we’ve got significant national interests at play here”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also warned Hezbollah against opening a second front, threatening counter-strikes of “unimaginable” magnitude that would devastate Lebanon.

Iran, meanwhile, slammed the US for giving Israel a blank check for bombing Gaza. Speaking at the United Nations last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated “new fronts will be opened up against the United States” if Washington does not change course.

According to several US outlets, citing anonymous sources in the White House, President Joe Biden’s administration has been concerned that an Israeli ground incursion on Gaza could draw Hezbollah and Iran into the conflict.

IDF ground troops entered Gaza last week and on Thursday announced they had reached the road that runs along the Mediterranean Sea, cutting the enclave in half.

The United States intelligence community believes – for now – that Tehran and its “proxies” are calibrating their response to Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip to avoid direct conflict with Israel or the US while still exacting costs on its adversaries.

Amid the conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israeli troops and Hamas, tension has flared along the border between the Israeli-occupied territories and Lebanon, with exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah and the Israeli regime have been exchanging sporadic fire since October 8, a day after the Zionist regime started bringing the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip under a relentless and indiscriminate war.

The Lebanese resistance movement has announced the group’s “guns and rockets” were with Palestinian fighters, and stressed that it will intensify its attacks against Israel if necessary.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has recently told senior Israeli officials that Hezbollah is “ten times stronger than Hamas”, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster has reported.

Biden and his aides have advised Netanyahu not to launch pre-emptive strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon, The New York Times daily newspaper has reported.

Hezbollah has already fought off two Israeli wars against Lebanon in 2000 and 2006, forcing a humiliating retreat upon the Tel Aviv regime’s military in both cases.

The resistance movement has vowed to resolutely defend Lebanon in case of any Israeli-imposed war.

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