US has ‘undeniable complicity’ in Gaza war killings, say former US officials

Hezbollah’s deputy leader says the group will stop fighting Israel after the Gaza ceasefire

BEIRUT: The deputy leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said on Tuesday that the only sure way to a ceasefire on the border between Lebanon and Israel is a total ceasefire in Gaza.
“If there is a cease-fire in Gaza, we will stop without any discussion,” Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem told The Associated Press in an interview at the group’s political office in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Hezbollah’s participation in the Israel-Hamas war was a “front of support” for its ally Hamas, Kassem said, and “if the war stops, this military support will no longer exist.”
But, he said, if Israel scales back its military operations without a formal cease-fire agreement and full withdrawal from Gaza, the implications for the conflict on the Lebanon-Israel border are less clear.
“If what is happening in Gaza is a mixture of ceasefire and no ceasefire, war and no war, we cannot respond (how we would react) now, because we do not know its shape, its results, its impact,” Kassem. said during a 40-minute interview.
The war began on October 7 after Hamas militants invaded southern Israel, killing around 1,200 – mostly civilians – and kidnapping around 250. Israel responded with an air and ground attack that caused widespread devastation and killed more than 37,900 of people in Gaza, according to the data. The Ministry of Health in the territory, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its numbers.
Ceasefire talks in Gaza have fizzled in recent weeks, raising fears of an escalation on the Lebanon-Israel front. Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily exchanges with Israeli forces along their border for the past nine months.
The low-level conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has displaced tens of thousands on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border. In northern Israel, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed; in Lebanon, more than 450 people — mostly fighters, but also dozens of civilians — were killed
Hamas has called for an end to the Gaza war and not just a pause in fighting, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to make such a commitment until Israel achieves its goals of destroying Hamas’ military and governance capabilities and will bring home nearly 120 hostages still held by Hamas.
Last month, the Israeli military said it had “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon if a diplomatic solution to the ongoing clashes is not reached. Any decision to launch such an operation should come from the country’s political leadership.
Some Israeli officials have said they are seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff and hope to avoid war. At the same time, they warned that the scenes of destruction seen in Gaza will be repeated in Lebanon if war breaks out.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is far more powerful than Hamas and is believed to have a vast arsenal of missiles and rockets capable of hitting anywhere in Israel.
Kassem said he does not believe Israel currently has the capacity — or has made the decision — to start a full-scale war with Hezbollah. He warned that even if Israel plans to launch a limited operation in Lebanon that stops short of a full-scale war, it should not expect the fighting to remain limited.
“Israel can decide what it wants: limited war, total war, partial war,” he said. “But they should expect that our response and our resistance will not be within a cap and rules of engagement set by Israel. … If Israel is waging war, it means that it does not control its scale or who goes into it.”
The latter was an apparent reference to Hezbollah’s allies in the so-called “axis of resistance” in the region, backed by Iran. Armed groups from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere – and potentially Iran itself – could enter the fray in the event of a full-scale war in Lebanon, which could also draw in Israel’s most powerful ally , United States.
US. and European diplomats have been shuttling between Lebanon and Israel for months in an attempt to avoid a wider conflict.
Kassem said he met Germany’s deputy intelligence chief, Ole Dieh, in Beirut on Saturday. US officials do not meet directly with Hezbollah, as Washington has designated it a terrorist group, but regularly send messages through intermediaries.
Kassem said White House spokesman Amos Hochstein had recently called through intermediaries for Hezbollah to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire and hostage exchange proposal put forward by US President Joe Biden. He said Hezbollah rejected the request.
“Hamas is the one who makes the decisions and whoever wants to ask for something should talk to him directly,” he said.
Kassem criticized US efforts to find a solution to the Gaza war, saying he supported Israel’s plans to end Hamas’ presence in Gaza. A constructive deal, he said, would end the war, get Israel to withdraw from Gaza and secure the release of the hostages.
Once a ceasefire is reached, then a political path can determine arrangements inside Gaza and on the Lebanon front, he added.

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