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US: Israel Offensive in Lebanon Risky  06/24 06:22

   

   ESPARGOS, Cape Verde (AP) -- The top U.S. military officer warned on Sunday 
that any Israeli military offensive into Lebanon would risk an Iranian response 
in defense of the powerful Hezbollah militant group there, triggering a broader 
war that could put U.S. forces in the region in danger.

   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."

   Brown spoke to reporters as he traveled to Botswana for a meeting of African 
defense ministers.

   Israeli officials have threatened a military offensive in Lebanon if there 
is no negotiated end to push Hezbollah away from the border. Just days ago, 
Israel's military said it had "approved and validated" plans for an offensive 
in Lebanon, even as the U.S. works to prevent the months of cross-border 
attacks from spiraling into a full-blown war.

   Netanyahu said Sunday he hoped a diplomatic solution could be achieved but 
said he would solve the problem "in a different way" if needed. "We can fight 
on several fronts and we are prepared to do that," he said.

   U.S. officials have tried to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict. 
The issue is expected to come up this week as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav 
Gallant visits Washington for meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd 
Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior U.S. officials.

   U.S. President Joe Biden's senior adviser, Amos Hochstein, met with 
officials in Lebanon and Israel last week in an effort to deescalate tensions. 
Hochstein told reporters in Beirut on Tuesday that it was a "very serious 
situation" and that a diplomatic solution to prevent a larger war was urgent.

   Brown also said the U.S. won't likely be able to help Israel defend itself 
against a broader Hezbollah war as well as it helped Israel fight off an 
Iranian barrage of missiles and drones in April. It is harder to fend off the 
shorter-range rockets that Hezbollah fires routinely across the border into 
Israel, he said.

   Asked if the U.S. has changed its force posture in the region to better 
assure troops are protected, he said the safety of the force has been a 
priority all along and noted that no U.S. bases have been attacked since 
February.

   Brown said the U.S. continues to talk with Israeli leaders and warn against 
widening the conflict. He said a key message is "to think about the second 
order of effect of any type of operation into Lebanon, and how that might play 
out and how it impacts not just the region, but how it impacts our forces in 
regions as well."

   Pentagon officials have said that Austin has also raised concerns about a 
broader conflict when he spoke to Gallant in a recent phone call.

   "Given the amount of rocket fire we've seen going from both sides of the 
border, we've certainly been concerned about that situation, and both publicly 
and privately have been urging all parties to restore calm along that border, 
and again, to seek a diplomatic solution," said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the 
Pentagon press secretary, last week.

   A war between the two heavily armed foes could be devastating to both 
countries and incur mass civilian casualties. Hezbollah's rocket arsenal is 
believed to be far more extensive than Hamas'.

   Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah have exchanged fire across Lebanon's 
border with northern Israel since fighters from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip 
staged a bloody assault on southern Israel in early October that set off the 
Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

   The situation escalated this month after an Israeli airstrike killed a 
senior Hezbollah military commander in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated 
by firing hundreds of rockets and explosive drones into northern Israel and 
Israel responded with a heavy assault on the militant group.

   Israeli strikes have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, including 70 
civilians. On Israel's side, 16 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

   An escalation in the conflict could also trigger wider involvement by other 
Iran-backed militant groups in the region.

   Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last Wednesday that 
militant leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries have 
previously offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to help Hezbollah, but 
he said the group already has more than 100,000 fighters.

 
 
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