US urges Israel’s defence minister to avoid Lebanon escalation - GulfToday

US urges Israel’s defence minister to avoid Lebanon escalation


Smoke plumes rise from a fire in a field after a drone landed near the Lebanese border on Sunday. AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel during a Monday meeting with its defence minister to avoid further escalation in Lebanon as they discussed efforts to reach a deal to free hostages in Gaza.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was on a visit to Washington seeking to reaffirm the value of ties with Israel's top ally, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly chastised the United States for what he said was a delay in weapons deliveries.

In a two-hour meeting with Gallant at the State Department, Blinken discussed indirect diplomacy between Israel and Hamas on an agreement that "secures the release of all hostages and alleviates the suffering of the Palestinian people," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Blinken also "underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes," Miller said in a statement.

Tensions have been rising with growing exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon's Iranian-backed group Hezbollah.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference. File photo

Netanyahu has said Israeli forces are winding up the most intense part of the Gaza war and will redeploy to the northern border, although he cast the move as defensive.

President Joe Biden on May 31 laid out a plan for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages.

Hamas, which launched the conflict with its October 7 attack on Israel, has come back with its own demands, and the United States hopes the gaps can be bridged.

Netanyahu, who has faced major protests calling for him to accept the deal, in recent days has annoyed the Biden administration by accusing Washington of cutting back arms and ammunition deliveries.

Gallant, without naming Netanyahu, took a different tack.

"The eyes of both our enemies and our friends are on the relationship between the US and Israel," he told Blinken, according to Gallant's office.

"We must resolve the differences between us quickly and stand together -- this is how we will achieve our goals and weaken our enemies," Gallant said.

Agence France-Presse



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