US Intel Indicates War Between Israel And Hezbollah Inching Closer

A large-scale confrontation between ISRAEL and Hezbollah is likely to break out in the next several weeks if Jerusalem and Hamas fail to reach a cease-fire deal in Gaza, U.S. intelligence indicates.

U.S. officials are trying to convince both sides to deescalate — a task that would be significantly easier with a cease-fire in place in Gaza. But that agreement is in tense negotiations and U.S. officials are not confident Israel and Hamas will agree to the deal on the table in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah have drafted battle plans and are in the process of trying to procure additional weapons, according to two senior U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence.

Both sides have publicly said they do not want to go to war, but senior Biden officials increasingly believe that intense fighting is likely to break out despite efforts to try and prevent it.

The risk is higher now than at any other point in recent weeks, according to another senior U.S. official, who, like others in this story, was granted anonymity to speak freely about sensitive intelligence.

A war between Israel and Hezbollah could ignite a conflict that forces the U.S. to help defend Jerusalem and pushes the Biden administration to engage more deeply in a region it has for years tried to leave. It also risks another humanitarian disaster, punching the aid community at a time when it is already stretched thin and trying to manage the crisis in Gaza.

The U.S. intelligence offers a slightly more conservative assessment than those coming from parts of Europe.
Some European countries calculate that a war between Israel and Hezbollah could happen in days. Many have advised their citizens to leave Lebanon. Canada is also preparing to evacuate thousands from the country.

The State Department on Thursday issued a travel advisory for U.S. citizens, urging them to “strongly reconsider” travel to Lebanon.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the administration is working toward a “diplomatic resolution” that would allow Israeli and Lebanese citizens to return to their homes.

The Biden administration has for weeks tried to persuade both sides against going to war. Top U.S. officials, including Amos Hochstein, an envoy to the Middle East, have traveled to the region in recent days to try and restore calm.

Despite those efforts, senior Biden officials have said that the escalating tensions on Israel's border — and the lack of any significant movement in cease-fire negotiations — are trending toward war.

“The logic of Nasrallah … is that it is all tied to Gaza, and until there is a cease-fire in Gaza the firing at Israel won't stop,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Wednesday. “We frankly, completely reject this logic.”

U.S. officials told POLITICO the intelligence indicates the catalyst for war — a major attack by either side, for example — is likely to happen with little notice.

ISRAELI Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who visited Washington this week, told reporters Wednesday that Israel does “not want war.” He added: “The goal is to bring our citizens back home safely. We prefer to do it via understandings, but we are preparing for every possible scenario.”

Last updated on July 24th, 2024 at 05:59 am

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