Netanyahu: Hezbollah War Could Be Next

Triggering concerns of a broader conflict in the region
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 24, 2024 2:30 AM CDT
Netanyahu: Lebanon War Could Be Next
People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 22, 2024.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current phase of fighting against Hamas in Gaza is winding down, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the AP reports. The comments threatened to further heighten the tensions between Israel and Hezbollah at a time when they appear to be moving closer to war. Netanyahu also signaled that there is no end in sight for the grinding war in Gaza. The Israeli leader said in a lengthy TV interview that while the army is close to completing its current ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, that would not mean the war against Hamas is over. But he said fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to battle Hezbollah.

"We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that," he told Israel's Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu TV channel, in an interview that was frequently interrupted by applause from the studio audience. "First and foremost, for defense," he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah began striking Israel almost immediately after Hamas' Oct. 7 cross-border attack that triggered the Gaza war. Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire nearly every day since then, but the fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of a full-blown war.

The top US military officer warned on Sunday that any Israeli military offensive into Lebanon would risk an Iranian response in defense of Hezbollah, which is much stronger than Hamas, possibly triggering a larger, region-wide war involving other Iranian proxies and perhaps Iran itself that could put US forces in the region in danger and cause heavy damage and mass casualties on both sides of the border. Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran "would be more inclined to support Hezbollah." He added that Tehran supports Hamas militants in Gaza, but would give greater backing to Hezbollah "particularly if they felt that Hezbollah was being significantly threatened," the AP reports. (More Israel stories.)

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