Hezbollah signals it will cease fire when Israel stops attacking Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 9:37 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Iran-backed Hezbollah signalled on Thursday that it would halt its attacks on Israel from Lebanon when the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip stops, but that it was also ready to keep on fighting if Israel continued hostilities.

Hezbollah and the Israeli army have been trading fire since the Palestinian group Hamas stormed southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, in a steadily intensifying conflict that has fuelled concern of wider escalation.

“The war in the south is linked to the aggression on Gaza on the one hand, and to securing means of protection for our country on the other,” senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah said.

“When the (Israeli) occupation halts its aggression on Gaza, this front stops, because it is a supportive front,” he said in comments made at an event to commemorate a Hezbollah field commander killed in an Israeli strike earlier this week.

Two sources familiar with Hezbollah’s thinking told Reuters on Tuesday that the group would halt fire on Israel if Hamas agrees to a proposal for a truce in Gaza – unless Israeli forces kept shelling Lebanon.

Mediators are seeking to secure a Gaza truce, which U.S. President Joe Biden has said he hopes will be in place by the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, expected to start this year on March 10.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant indicated on Sunday that Israel planned to increase attacks on Hezbollah in the event of a possible ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.

But Gallant also left the door open to a diplomatic deal to achieve Israel’s goal of a withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters from the border, and the return of tens of thousands of Israelis who have fled the area.

The fighting, the worst between Hezbollah and Israel since 2006, has also uprooted tens of thousands of people in Lebanon.

Referring to Gallant’s comments, Fadlallah said he had threatened to “continue targeting Lebanon”. “The resistance will repel all aggression on its country,” Fadlallah said, in the comments, a copy of which were circulated by his office.

(Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean)