The administration of US President Joe Biden is trying to dissuade Israel from a large-scale attack on Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamist military group, fearing that it would throw the entire Middle East into turmoil, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing sources.
According to US and Israeli officials interviewed by the paper, Washington is concerned that if Israel were to launch a major attack not only on Hamas but also on Hezbollah, it would struggle in a two-front war. It also reportedly worries that such an action could draw the US into the conflict along with Iran, which has close ties with the Lebanon-based group.
The report says that US officials have tried to stay in touch with Hezbollah and Iran using the mediation of Arab countries while advising Israel to “take care that their actions in the north against Hezbollah and in the south in Gaza do not give Hezbollah an easy pretext to enter the war.”
According to the New York Times, these concerns were made clear during meetings held by Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Israeli officials. The US president is said to have particularly “raised the specters of the disastrous decisions” by Washington to invade Iraq and wage a war in Afghanistan.
While Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged cross-border strikes in recent days, both parties have so far refrained from fully committing their forces. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has described Hezbollah as “10 times stronger than Hamas” and warned that the country’s military should be prepared to engage it.
NYT sources described Gallant as a Hezbollah hawk, who has advocated a preemptive strike on the group, a stance which was not shared by other Israeli officials.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, said that the group is “in the heart of the battle” between Israel and Hamas, explaining that it is seeking to “weaken the Israeli enemy and let them know that we are ready” for a possible major escalation.
The Middle East found itself in the throes of new violence on October 7 when the Palestinian armed group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, with ensuing fighting resulting in thousands of dead and injured. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his country “at war,” with preparations underway for a major ground operation in Gaza.