US Warns Israeli Offensive In Lebanon Could Bring Wider War, Draw In Iran


By Carla Babb

U.S. and European officials are warning of the possibility of the war in Gaza expanding, with the prospect of an Israeli offensive in Lebanon against the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters Monday in Luxembourg that the risk of the war spilling over was growing bigger every day.

“I think that, unhappily, we are on the eve of the war expanding,” Borrell said.

He also said a cease-fire in Gaza was desperately needed to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid, saying “delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Gaza has become impossible.”

A temporary pier that was built for delivering aid into Gaza via a sea route paused deliveries Monday because of “scheduled maintenance,” Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder told reporters.

Sunday marked the U.S.-built pier’s largest delivery day to date, with 720 metric tons of aid moved to the Gaza beach that day. Since the pier operations began on May 17, the U.S. military has delivered more than 6,200 metric tons of aid via the sea route to the Gazan coast for delivery to Palestinians, according to Ryder.

However, aid organizations say corridors intended to funnel that aid from the Gazan shore to Palestinians in need are unsafe and unusable.

Ryder also told reporters Monday that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group would “remain briefly” in the Mediterranean Sea before returning home. The aircraft carrier left the U.S. Central Command region after being deployed for more than seven months.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt will leave the Pacific region in the coming days to deploy to the Middle East “to promote regional stability, deter aggression and protect the free flow of commerce in the region,” he added.

The top U.S. military officer warned Monday that an Israeli offensive in Lebanon would raise the risk of a broader conflict that draws in Iran to aid Hezbollah.

Israel has been battling Iran-backed Hamas in its offensive in the Gaza Strip for months while also engaging in daily skirmishes with Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Air Force General CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Iran would be “more inclined to provide greater support to Hezbollah,” describing the militants as having more resources than Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the “intense phase” of fighting against Hamas in Gaza would be ending “very soon.” But he added that Israel would likely shift troops to the border with Lebanon.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 14, Netanyahu said moving troops north would bolster the country’s defensive posture against Hezbollah and allow Israelis who fled the fighting near the Lebanon-Israel border to return home.

He added that while he hoped a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Hezbollah could be found, Israel could “fight on several fronts, and we are also preparing for it.”

The war in Gaza and the risk of a wider conflict were to be the focus of talks Monday in Washington as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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

The war is now in its ninth month with no immediate end in sight. President Joe Biden has outlined a cease-fire that would halt fighting for six weeks and facilitate the release of Hamas-held hostages. Hamas has said any agreement must result in an end to the war, a demand Israel has rejected.

The war was triggered by a shock Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel and led to the capture of about 250 hostages. Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has killed more than 37,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians but also thousands of combatants, according to the territory’s Health Ministry.

VOA’s Chris Hannas contributed to this report. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

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