Monday, February 19, 2018

'Nightmare Scenario': Direct Confrontation Between Israel And Hezbollah, Lebanese Army Chief Vows To Confront 'Israeli Aggression'

U.N. chief warns of nightmare scenario if Israel, Hezbollah clash

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was worried about the possibility of a direct confrontation between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Guterres said the latest signals from Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah showed the will to not let this happen but "sometimes a spark is enough to unleash this kind of a conflict."

Hezbollah said last week it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary in an Lebanon-Israel offshore energy dispute. US diplomats have been mediating between the two countries after a rise in tensions also involving a dispute over a border wall and Hezbollah's growing arsenal.

"I am deeply worried about hard-to-foresee escalations in the whole region," Gutteres told reporters in his native Lisbon, also referring to Israel's concerns about various militia groups in Syria approaching its borders.

"The worst nightmare would be if there is a direct confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah... the level of destruction in Lebanon would be absolutely devastating, so there are major points of concern around this situation."

The powerful Shi'ite movement is part of Lebanon's coalition government. Israel sees Hezbollah as the biggest security threat on its borders.

Hezbollah was formed in the 1980s as a resistance movement against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. The two remain bitter enemies but there has been no major conflict between them since a month-long war in 2006.

The Lebanese army commander has vowed to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs” amid increasing tensions over a border barrier Israel is building and a dispute over offshore gas.
“I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” Reuters quoted Lebanese army quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying.
“The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs,” he said.

US acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield has been in the region in recent days trying to mediate between Israel and Lebanon.

The dispute is centered around a border wall the IDF is constructing along the boundary between the two countries, contested rights to offshore natural gas exploration, and Israeli warnings that Iran — through its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah — is turning the country into a forward base to manufacture rockets and attack the Jewish state.

Hezbollah, a powerful terror group considered to have more military clout than the Lebanese army itself, recently threatened to open fire on IDF soldiers building the barrier, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported.

The message was delivered to Jerusalem via UNIFIL, the report said. The UN force, fearing a possible escalation, passed the message on to the US and French ambassadors, who updated the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on the matter.

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