US cautions against escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 1:16 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States does not want to see tensions rise further between Israel and Hezbollah, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, adding that Israel had assured Washington it wants a diplomatic solution.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, department spokesperson Matthew Miller said tens of thousands of Israelis in the north faced a real security threat which needed to be addressed and Washington was pursuing a diplomatic path to resolve the issue.

“We do not want to see either side escalate the conflict in the north and in fact,” Miller said.

“The government of Israel has said publicly and they have assured us privately that they want to achieve a diplomatic path. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to pursue, and ultimately that would make military action unnecessary.”

His comments came after Hezbollah said it had launched a volley of rockets at an Israeli aerial surveillance base on Tuesday in response to the Israeli military’s deepest attack yet into Lebanese territory. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the rockets.

Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern border since Oct. 8, a day after a bloody Hamas assault in southern Israel that triggered a fierce Israeli land, air and sea offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah in the event of a possible ceasefire in Gaza “until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah” from the border.

“While we saw the defense minister’s comments, we have also taken note that repeatedly, the defense minister and other officials of the government of Israel, including the prime minister, have said publicly that they would prefer the situation to be resolved diplomatically,” Miller added.

Israeli strikes since October have killed some 50 civilians in Lebanon, in addition to some 200 Hezbollah fighters.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Macfie)