Israel’s Gallant rejects French initiative to defuse Lebanon tensions

Defence minister says Israel will not participate in trilateral group with US and France because of Paris’s ‘hostile policies’.

‘France ignores the atrocities committed by Hamas,’ Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says [File: Jacquelyn Martin via AP]By Al Jazeera StaffPublished On 14 Jun 202414 Jun 2024

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has rejected a French initiative aimed at defusing the growing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah as fears of an all-out war between the two sides grow.

Gallant said on Friday that Israel would not take part in a French-proposed trilateral group with the United States and France as he slammed Paris’s position on the war on Gaza.

Keep reading

list of 4 itemsend of list

“As we fight a just war, defending our people, France has adopted hostile policies against Israel,” Gallant said in a statement. “In doing so, France ignores the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli children, women and men. Israel will not be a party to the trilateral framework proposed by France.”

It was unclear whether Gallant, who is the subject of a war crimes investigation by International Criminal Court prosecutors, was speaking for the entire Israeli government or his own office.

Israeli ministers have sometimes released contradictory statements on the same subject, including recently on whether the country accepts the US proposal for an “enduring” ceasefire in Gaza.

Later on Friday, several Israeli media outlets said officials from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Gallant’s statement against France, calling it “incorrect and inappropriate”.

Paris has repeatedly denounced Hamas’s deadly October 7 attacks in Israel, but it has also criticised the Israeli offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza and called on the country to respect international humanitarian law. Israeli attacks in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians since October 7.

French President Emmanuel Macron put forward the Lebanon proposal on Thursday after days of escalation at the Lebanese-Israeli border. France, which enjoys close relations with Lebanon, has tried to advance a negotiated resolution.

“With the United States, we agreed on the principle of a trilateral [contact group] – Israel, the United States and France – to advance on the roadmap that we proposed, and we will do the same with the Lebanese authorities,” Macron said.

In February, Paris presented a plan to end hostilities that would see Hezbollah withdraw 10km (6 miles) from the border, Israel halt its attacks on southern Lebanon and negotiations over disputed border areas.

Hezbollah has said any diplomatic agreement can materialise only after an end to Israel’s war on Gaza. The Lebanese organisation started attacking military bases in northern Israel after the outbreak of the war on Gaza in what it says is a “support front” to back Palestinian armed groups.

Israel responded by bombing villages across southern Lebanon and targeting Hezbollah positions. Despite the near-daily exchanges of fire, the confrontations have largely been limited to the border area.

But cross-border clashes have intensified in recent weeks, raising the prospects of a major war.

On Thursday, Hezbollah said it fired 150 rockets and launched 30 suicide drones at Israeli military positions in response to the killing of one of its top commanders this week. Later that day, an Israeli air raid killed two women and injured 15 other civilians in the southern Lebanese village of Jinata.

Hezbollah announced several military operations against Israel on Friday, including claiming a rocket attack against a building housing Israeli soldiers.

Tens of thousands of people in southern Lebanon and northern Israel have fled their homes to escape the violence.

Hezbollah says it is ready for war if Israel launches a major attack. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have pledged to push Hezbollah fighters farther away from the country’s border.

US and Western officials have warned against an escalation in Lebanon.

“We’re going to continue to work to try to advance calm in the north of Israel and achieve a diplomatic resolution that would allow the tens of thousands of Israelis who have been displaced from their homes and the tens of thousands of Lebanese who have been displaced from their homes to return home,” US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

“We continue to believe … a ceasefire in Gaza is the best way to achieve that diplomatic resolution.”

Source: Al Jazeera