Hezbollah says what could stop ongoing conflict with Israel

A full ceasefire in Gaza would compel the Lebanese armed group to cease the fighting immediately, its deputy leader has told AP

The only way to stop the escalation on the Israeli-Lebanese border is for West Jerusalem to end its operation in Gaza, the deputy leader of the militant group Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Kassem, told AP on Tuesday.

The campaign being waged by the Israeli military in Gaza against Hamas followed a surprise attack by the latter on southern Israeli villages, which killed more than 1,100 people. The militants also took hundreds of hostages back to Gaza.

West Jerusalem responded with bombardments of Gaza followed by a ground operation. More than 37,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the start of the hostilities.

Since early on in the conflict, Hezbollah, a powerful Iranian-backed political movement and paramilitary force, has waged a limited campaign of tit-for-tat drone and missile strikes on northern Israel.

“If there is a ceasefire in Gaza, we will stop without any discussion,” Kassem told AP on Tuesday, commenting on the situation. He also described the actions of his group as a “support front” for Hamas, adding that if the conflict in Gaza stops “this military support will no longer exist.”

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The armed group’s deputy leader still warned that it is unclear how his organization would react if no formal ceasefire is reached. “If what happens in Gaza is a mix between ceasefire and no ceasefire, war and no war, we can’t answer [how we would react],” Kassem said.

He still doubted that Israel had sufficient forces to wage a full-blown war against Hezbollah. The armed group’s deputy head also warned that a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could lead to a bigger war. “If Israel wages the war, it means it doesn’t control its extent or who enters into it,” Kassem said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last month that he would pull some Israel Defense Force units out of Gaza and move them to the Lebanese border. Washington reportedly warned West Jerusalem against starting even a “limited war” in Lebanon, while Iran had declared that it would “support Hezbollah by all means” in such a conflict.

The deteriorating situation has also drawn the attention of the UN. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last month that “one miscalculation… could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination.”

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