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Blinken, Borrell call for diplomatic solution to Hezbollah conflict

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Blinken, Borrell call for diplomatic solution to Hezbollah conflict



Evacuated Israelis must be able to return to their homes on the country’s northern border, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday night as he called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Hezbollah.

“It is very important that Israelis have security in the North,” Blinken said as he wrapped up a trip to Turkey and Greece and prepared to head for what he said is his fourth tour of the Middle East since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. It will include stops in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.

Blinken’s trip is focused on the Gaza war, freeing the hostages held there, and preventing an all-out war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“We have an intense focus on preventing this conflict from spreading,” he said, as he noted, in particular, the plight of Israelis who had been evacuated from their homes on the northern border 90 days ago at the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

“Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in northern Israel because of the threat posed by Hezbollah,” Blinken said.

Smoke rises during an exchange of fire between the IDF and terrorists from the Hezbollah organization on the border between Israel and Lebanon, December 25, 2023 (credit: Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

“We are looking at ways – diplomatically – to try and defuse that tension so that people can return to their homes; so they can live in peace and security. This is something that we are actively working on,” he said.

The desires and needs of Israel

Israel is “clearly not interested and does not want escalation. That has been made clear from the start,” Blinken said, adding, “but they have to be prepared to defend themselves and defend their rights to live in their own country.”

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He said that “from Lebanon’s perspective it is not in the interest of Lebanon to see any escalation. So the question is in large part Hezbollah and what actions it will take” and how countries with ties to Hezbollah can use their influence to calm the situation. “For us, to use our own diplomacy to see if we can find a way to produce some more sustained calm in northern Israel and southern Lebanon.”

Blinken’s expected trip to Israel this week follows a visit to Israel on Thursday by US special envoy Amos Hochstein.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Hochstein on Thursday that Israel is committed to bringing about a fundamental change on its border with Lebanon, according to a statement from his office. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Hochstein that the window for diplomacy was closing.

As part of the diplomatic blitz expected this week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will visit Israel and Lebanon.

Counselor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf will also be in the region this week, visiting Jordan and Israel.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell visited Lebanon on Saturday and called for a diplomatic solution, including the implementation of UN Security Council 1701, which set out the ceasefire terms that ended the Second Lebanon War. That resolution mandates that the only armed group that can exist on Israel’s border is the Lebanese army and not a non-state actor such as Hezbollah.

“I think that the war can be prevented, has to be avoided, and diplomacy can prevail to look for a better solution,” Borrell said during a joint press conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.  

“It is imperative to avoid a regional escalation in the Middle East, it is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict. This is the last thing Lebanon needs,” Borrell stated.

“More than 70,000 civilians have already been displaced in Lebanon, 200,000 in northern Israel. Almost 50,000 olive trees have been burnt on the border,” he explained.

“Nobody stands to gain from a regional conflict,” Borrell said, adding that he was directing this message to both Israel and Hezbollah.

“Diplomatic channels have to be open to signal that the war is not the only option, is the worst option, and to keep working on a diplomatic solution,” he said during a joint press conference with Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.

Lebanon is committed to de-escalating the situation Habib said – and wants to see the full implementation of Resolution 1701. He cautioned, however, that “the only political solution that will put an end to the conflict in the Middle East is to end the Palestinian conflict.”

The IDF said Saturday that 40 “launches” from Lebanon toward the area of Meron were identified. There were no reports of casualties or damage. Hezbollah said it had hit a key Israeli observation post with 62 rockets as a “preliminary response” to the killing of Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri on Tuesday.

Tensions have been especially high in the area since Arouri was killed by a drone in the southern suburbs of Beirut – a stronghold of Hamas’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah – in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

On Saturday night, Netanyahu issued a video statement expressing his determination to destroy Hamas.

“Three months ago, Hamas committed a terrible massacre against us. My government directed the IDF to go to war to eliminate Hamas, return our hostages, and ensure that Gaza will never again be a threat to Israel. The war must not be stopped until we achieve all of the goals. We will not give Hamas any immunity whatsoever, and we will fight until we restore security in both the South and the North,” Netanyahu stated.

Reuters contributed to this report.





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Everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Everything you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict



The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most well-known conflicts around the world. 

Since its beginning shortly after the birth of the State of Israel, the conflict has dominated regional geopolitics for over 70 years. And as the ongoing Israel-Hamas War shows, the conflict’s importance and intensity show no sign of slowing down. 

But what is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Where did it start? Who are the key players involved? 

Here is everything you need to know.

Palestinian and Israeli flags overlook Dome of Rock and Western Wall (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Where is Israel?

Israel is a country in the Middle East, specifically in the Levant region. It is steeped in thousands of years of history and has been the home of numerous civilizations and religious faiths.

Israel is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian territories and is on the coast of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. 

While most countries consider its capital to be Tel Aviv, Israel and a few other countries, such as the United States, recognize Jerusalem as the capital.

Where is Palestine?

Palestine is a self-proclaimed country, recognized largely as the Palestinian territories, located in the Middle East, specifically on the west bank of the Jordan River (known colloquially as the West Bank) and in a region along the Mediterranean coast known as the Gaza Strip. It is bordered by Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, with the Gaza Strip being on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Though it proclaims Jerusalem as its capital, its de facto capital is Ramallah in the West Bank.

Where is Gaza?

Gaza, known as the Gaza Strip, is a part of the Palestinian territories and is located along the Mediterranean coast. It borders Israel and Egypt and has three border crossings: the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings with Israel and the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Has Israel recognized Palestine?

Israel has refused to recognize a Palestinian state, though progress had been made following the Oslo Accords. 

Currently, Israel officially supports the idea of a two-state solution. Still, it is at odds with the proposed Palestinian borders, as well as the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the possibility of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. 

However, Israel does recognize Palestinian control over certain parts of the West Bank.

A demonstrator holds up a sign reading ‘Free Palestine’ during a march rally in support of Palestinian people in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Santiago, Chile, March 17, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/Vanessa Rubilar)

Does Palestine recognize Israel?

Palestine technically does recognize Israel, with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announcing it as such in 1988. This was reaffirmed following the signing of the Oslo Accords. However, the Palestinian leadership continues to have strong opposition to the State of Israel, and many Palestinian factions disagree with the recognition of Israel.

Israel is oftentimes referred to by these bodies as the “Zionist occupation.”

What is the Palestinian Authority?

The Palestinian Authority is the official ruling entity in the Palestinian territories. It is led by President Mahmoud Abbas and is controlled by his Fatah party. 

The PA is based in Ramallah and exercises control over the Palestinian-run areas of the West Bank, as well as claiming control over the Gaza Strip. 

The government was meant to be an interim body rather than a permanent political entity. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a Fatah conference in Ramallah in 2009. (credit: REUTERS)

Officially a democracy, the Palestinian Authority is, in practice, an authoritarian entity, not having had elections since 2006, with further attempts at having elections never actually manifesting. 

Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005, though his term in office has continued for almost two decades at the time of writing. 

The PA has also been accused of violating human rights, censoring a free press, and engaging in widespread corruption. 

Currently, the PA is fractured following the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, which saw the terrorist group and party Hamas win control of the parliament. Since then, a schism has erupted between Fatah and Hamas, and attempts at mending this split have been unsuccessful.

A young boy carrying a Hamas flag walks past Palestinian women gathered as they wait for the funeral of a young Palestinian girl, outside the family’s home in the Qalandiya Refugee camp in the West Bank, on December 18, 2015. (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

What is Hamas?

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist terrorist group that was founded in 1987 by Ahmed Yassin. Its origins lie in a Muslim charity organization, Mujama al-Islamiya, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood organization. 

Since its official founding in 1987, Hamas has become infamous for its terrorist activities and its staunch refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, but the Palestinian Authority dissolved the government and replaced it with a Fatah-led one, leading to the schism mentioned above.

Hamas has fought several armed conflicts with Israel since taking over Gaza, with the current ongoing war being sparked by Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, which saw 1,200 people in Israel killed and 250 people taken hostage. 

Hamas’s leadership is spread out between Gaza and Qatar. Its leader in Gaza is Yahya Sinwar, while the organization’s overall political leader is Ismail Haniyeh.

When did the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begin?

The starting point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the subject of fierce debate since many believe the Palestinian national identity didn’t begin until the middle of the 20th century. In contrast, others believe the Israeli national identity did not technically exist until the establishment of the State of Israel. 

What is agreed upon, though, is that Jews and Arabs have conflicted with one another in the region since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This coincided with the arrival of Jewish Zionist settlers into the future State of Israel to escape antisemitic persecution in Europe. At the time, the land was ruled over by the Ottoman Empire, though by the end of World War I, the British took it over and instituted the British Mandate of Palestine. 

Over the coming decades, the two demographics would grow increasingly in conflict as tensions grew, with the Arabs staging multiple revolts in the mandate. In 1947, a plan was proposed by the British to partition Israel into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews agreed, but the Arabs did not. 

A year later, Israel declared independence, and war was declared. Surrounded on all sides by enemy nations, Israel proved victorious, and many Arabs ended up fleeing their homes – an event Palestinians refer to today as the Nakba. 

Tensions exploded in the late 1980s as Palestinians launched the First Intifada, an uprising aimed at lashing out at what they perceived as an oppressive Israeli occupation. The intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, which many hoped would lead to a lasting peace. However, fierce opposition by hardliners among both Israelis and Palestinians prevented this, particularly with the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the election of a new right-wing Israeli government.

In 2000, the Second Intifada started up, lasting several years and seeing multiple casualties. It ultimately ended following the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, though it continues to have control over Gaza’s borders and airspace.

While the most visible part of the conflict now takes place in Gaza, there is still considerable tension among Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where terrorist attacks and bouts of violence still occur.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip. June 17, 2024. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Are Israel and Palestine fighting over Gaza?

The ongoing Israel-Hamas War is fought largely in the Gaza Strip, but it is not a fight “over” Gaza. Only a small minority of Israeli lawmakers are calling for the full annexation of Gaza. Rather, the ongoing war is over the eradication of Hamas and the freeing of the hostages held in Gaza.





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Hezbollah war alert level rising: Is the IDF ready to fight in Lebanon? – analysis

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Hezbollah war alert level rising: Is the IDF ready to fight in Lebanon? – analysis



Amos Hochstein, the envoy and mediator of the Biden administration for the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, raised the alert level in Israel on Wednesday when he announced that his efforts toward agreement between Israel and Hezbollah had reached a dead end.

Hezbollah insisted throughout the months of fighting that as long as the fighting in the Gaza Strip continues, it will keep attacking the Israeli home front. In a few weeks, the intense fighting in Rafah will end, and the IDF should transition to intelligence-based raids against terrorist activities.

However, the emerging security situation will compel the Israeli government to make decisions about the future of the conflict with Hezbollah. Options include but are not limited to waiting for a diplomatic development, escalating the fighting, or launching a full-scale war against the Shiite organization in Lebanon. This arena could see the involvement of Iran, the Houthis from Yemen, and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.

A security official told Walla, “We are now approaching the moment of decision,” and officials in Beirut and Jerusalem now understand that the situation could deteriorate significantly.

The situation on the ground heated up in the last two days after Hezbollah terrorists resumed fighting following a two-day pause. Yesterday, two Hezbollah terrorists were killed, and last night, another four were killed. Hezbollah’s policy is to carry out their plans despite having more than 350 of their terrorists dead, terrorists who had a high level of familiarity with the region.

IDF Reserve infantrymen take part in a military maneuver of their battalion in Golan Heights, on April 1, 2024 (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

Strategies and Readiness

Those remaining in outposts and temporary sites operate under a sense of being hunted as they attempt to launch anti-tank missiles at the Narkis outpost and rockets at Rosh Hanikra.

The focus of the IDF counter units is on Hezbollah’s junior command level, which has suffered very painful blows leading to a decrease in the scale of attacks on the Israeli home front. For example, Abu Jaafar Baz, a coastal brigade commander in Hezbollah, was eliminated alongside the head of the brigade’s artillery division. Following their elimination, there has been a noted decrease in the volume of rocket launches.

The IDF estimated that due to the pressure exerted by Hezbollah’s senior headquarters to carry out more launches and attacks, the Northern Command and the Israel Air Force would have more opportunities to strike in southern Lebanon based on mistakes made on the other side of the border.

There is an understanding that these are the most critical weeks since the fighting in the north began. In closed forums, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi told the political leadership that the IDF was ready for war. Halevi emphasized to the field commanders in the North, both in training and operations, that the security situation could change rapidly and that they must maintain a high level of readiness and alertness.





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Shurat HaDin: FRC report rejecting Gaza famine exposes UN bigotry, undermines ICC prosecution claim

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Shurat HaDin: FRC report rejecting Gaza famine exposes UN bigotry, undermines ICC prosecution claim



In late May 2024, the Famine Review Committee (FRC) published its updated report on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the premier global famine monitoring initiative structured as a partnership between governments, international organizations, and NGOs. The report rejected FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning System Network) claims of Gaza famine, determining that these reports bluntly ignored “between as much as 38% to 49%” of food deliveries to Gaza and concluding that it “does not find the FEWS NET analysis plausible.” This report was ignored by UN agencies, including the World Health Organization, which continued to echo the “Gaza famine” campaign. Even upon publishing this report, the UN ignored its main conclusion rejecting the Gaza famine.

“The FRC report serves as a wake-up call, revealing – once again – the deep bias and obsession by UN agencies with Israel,” said Nitsana Darshan Leitner, founder and president of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, adding that “Miscalculating almost 50% of food supply into Gaza cannot be a minor mishap. It is clearly deliberate, exactly as bluntly ignoring this expert report – once already filed – by UN agencies. The UN is simply saying to us: “Don’t let the facts come in the way of demonizing Israel.”

Darshan Leitner emphasized that “this report does more than just expose UN bigotry: it also undermines the ICC prosecutor’s claims that Israel is deliberately using starvation as a method of warfare against the Gazan population. The ICC’s next steps will reveal its true colors. If the Prosecutor wishes to save anything left from the ICC’s reputation, he should quickly reconsider his actions, pull back his request for arrest warrants, and publish a formal apology. If he or the Pre-Trial Chamber chooses to ignore it and continue their modern “Dreyfus Affair” antisemitic blood libel against Israel, they will bury the remaining ICC credibility with it.”





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