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US seeking diplomatic deal to prevent Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Pentagon chief says

June 25, 2024 at 8:41 pm

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before the Department of Defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on budget issues for the 2025 fiscal year, Washington, DC, May 8, 2024 [ALLISON BAILEY/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images]

The United States is urgently working towards a diplomatic agreement that would allow Israeli and Lebanese civilians to return to their homes on both sides of the border, US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Shelling on Israel’s northern border has led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from areas on both sides of the frontier, and has escalated in recent weeks, leading to fears of an all-out Israel-Hezbollah war.

“Hezbollah’s provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that they do not want. Such a war would be a catastrophe for Lebanon and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians,” Austin said at the start of his meeting with Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, at the Pentagon.

“Diplomacy is by far the best way to prevent more escalation. So we’re urgently seeking a diplomatic agreement that restores lasting calm to Israel’s northern border and enables civilians to return safely to their homes on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border,” he added.

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, has said that it will spend the coming weeks trying to resolve the conflict with Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah group and would prefer a diplomatic solution.

Hanegbi said Israel had been discussing with US officials the possibility that an expected end of intense Israeli military operations in Gaza would allow an “arrangement” to be reached with Hezbollah.

At the Pentagon, Gallant said that he would discuss military readiness with Austin. “We are working closely together to achieve an agreement, but we must also discuss readiness on every possible scenario,” Gallant said.

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