While Israel’s army continues to fight the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip, there are also heightened tensions on the northern border with Lebanon.

Israel’s military announced late Sunday evening that warplanes had again attacked a command center of the Hamas-allied Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon. In addition, an observation post of the Iranian-backed militia was attacked. The information could not initially be independently verified.

In the evening, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Galant discussed the dangerous situation in the border area with Amos Hochstein, an adviser to US President Biden, in Tel Aviv. According to his ministry, Galant said at the meeting that they were ready for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but at the same time prepared for “any other scenario”.

Israel moves divisions to the border with Lebanon

According to Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari, three troop divisions were moved to the northern border. He issued a clear warning to Hezbollah over the weekend: war is not Israel’s first priority, “but we are definitely prepared.”

Since the Gaza war began following the Hamas massacre in Israel on October 7, mutual attacks have occurred almost daily in the Israeli-Lebanese border region. There were fighting there again on Sunday. According to the Israeli military, Hezbollah fired several rockets into northern Israel. In response, Israeli jets bombed a Hezbollah missile site and observation posts in two towns in southern Lebanon.

No agreement on a ceasefire

Meanwhile, there is still no agreement in the negotiations in the Gaza war about a new ceasefire and the release of more hostages. Hamas has a proposal recently negotiated in Paris by the US, Egypt and Qatar, which envisages the gradual release of the hostages in return for a longer ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

A representative said they would comment on this soon, but it was still being discussed internally. Israel’s negotiators are said to have already accepted the draft framework.

Hamas and other extremist groups attacked southern Israel on October 7th, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping around 250 hostages. 105 hostages were exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons during the only ceasefire to date in November. According to Israel, 136 hostages are currently being held in the coastal area. Israel assumes that almost 30 of them are no longer alive.

Israel: Thousands of Hezbollah positions attacked

Meanwhile, Israel wants to use military and diplomatic pressure to ensure that the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, which is allied with Hamas, retreats behind the Litani River, 30 kilometers from the border – as stipulated by UN Resolution 1701.

Hezbollah is currently firing repeatedly from the buffer zone that was set up in the border area after the end of the second Lebanon war in 2006. Israel’s army responds with counterattacks. According to army spokesman Hagari, the armed forces have targeted more than 3,400 Hezbollah positions since the start of the Gaza war. More than 200 terrorists were “eliminated”.

Israel warns Hezbollah

The Hezbollah militia is considered to be significantly more powerful than Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands of residents in northern Israel and on the Lebanese side have now left their hometowns because of the repeated military confrontations. Israel has already warned several times that it is prepared to launch a major military operation if diplomatic efforts fail.

Defense Minister Galant reiterated the warning on Sunday, as the Times of Israel reported: “The clear instruction I have given to the Air Force is to point the noses of our aircraft north,” Galant was quoted as saying. Israel’s army is ready for any eventuality, it was said.

The newspaper further reported, citing Israeli broadcaster Channel 12, that Biden’s advisor Hochstein spoke of signs of a possible diplomatic solution at the meeting with Galant. This would include a withdrawal of Hezbollah from the border area. There was no official confirmation of this.

What is important today

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to hold renewed crisis talks in the Middle East. This should also be about a new ceasefire and the release of hostages in the Gaza war. Blinken’s fifth trip to the Middle East since the start of the Gaza war almost four months ago comes after the comprehensive US military strike on pro-Iranian militia positions in Iraq and Syria and renewed attacks on positions of the pro-Iranian Houthi militia in Yemen.

Meanwhile, the World Security Council is meeting in New York at Russia’s instigation to discuss the US attacks in Syria and Iraq. Moscow accuses Washington of deliberately wanting to escalate the conflict in the Middle East.