Politics & News

Israeli Defense Minister Heads to US to Discuss Gaza, Lebanon

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant headed to Washington on Sunday for talks with top US officials, reported Reuters.

The Israeli Defense chief is set to discuss the next phase of the war in Gaza and the escalating tensions on the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire with Hezbollah have raised fears of wider conflict.

High-level Talks 

Before heading to Washington, Gallant said he will meet his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, as well as other senior officials.

In a statement, Gallant said: “We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in more areas.”

The Israeli official mentioned the next phase of the Gaza war. He said: “The transition to Phase C in Gaza is of great importance. I will discuss this transition with US officials, how it may enable additional things and I know that we will achieve close cooperation with the US on this issue as well.”

Escalation with Hezbollah

Hostilities have been escalating between Israel and Hezbollah since the outbreak of the Gaza war eight months ago. Both sides have been trading fire, with Hezbollah saying it will not stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.

Earlier this month, an Israeli airstrike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet. In response, the Lebanese group targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest barrages of rockets and drones so far.

In an attempt to ease tensions, US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon last week, amid an escalation in rhetoric on both sides.

Post-war Gaza

Some Israeli officials have pointed to a link between the ongoing military offensive in Rafah, in southern Gaza, and a possible shift in focus towards Lebanon.

If Israel is to launch a ground operation or ramp up its aerial bombardments on Hezbollah, it has to scale back its operations in Gaza to free up forces for that purpose.

According to officials, the third phase of Israel’s war in Gaza includes scaling back fighting while embarking on reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

Gallant, a member of Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has clashed with Netanyahu in the past few months over the conduct of the war. He demanded a clearer post-war plan for Gaza that will not leave Israel in charge.

Complex Fight

However, Yuli Edelstein, the head of Israel’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, told Army Radio on Sunday that engaging in a fight with Hezbollah would be complex, whether now or later.

He said: “We are not in the right position to conduct fighting on both the southern front and the northern front. We will have to deploy differently in the south in order to fight in the north.”

Tensions with the US

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, released a video in which he said the Biden administration was “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”

Netanyahu said that US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to Israel.

The video, which exposed private high-level diplomatic conversation, has caused tensions with the White House. Blinken declined to confirm whether he had given the Israeli Prime Minister such assurances.

Edelstein, who is also a Likud member, criticized the video. He said: “I hope that in the discussions behind closed doors much more will be achieved than by attempts to create pressure with videos,” referring to Gallant’s trip to the US.

Last month, the Biden administration paused a shipment of 2,000 pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely-populated areas but Israel was still due to get US weaponry worth billions of dollars.

Following October 7, Israel’s military operation in Gaza has killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left the Strip’s population homeless and on the brink of famine.

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