Middle East

US offers assurances to Israel this week in the event of full-blown war with Hezbollah

By MJ Lee, CNN

CNN  — 

Senior US officials reassured a delegation of top Israeli officials visiting Washington this week that if a full-out war were to break out on Israel’s northern border between Israel and Hezbollah, the Biden administration is fully prepared to back its ally, according to a senior administration official.

The in-person assurances came as an increase in cross-border attacks in recent weeks between Israel and the Iran-backed group Hezbollah have intensified concerns about the possible outbreak of another full-fledged conflict in the Middle East – and also as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly accused the US of withholding weapons and ammunition from his country, touching off a tense back-and-forth between Israeli and US officials.

Top Israeli officials including Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi participated in a series of meetings with Biden administration officials like national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House Middle East affairs coordinator Brett McGurk in Washington this week. They discussed a wide range of topics including the situation on Israel’s northern border, Iran and the ceasefire and hostage negotiations, sources said.

When discussing the issue of Hezbollah’s provocations, US officials made clear this week that the Biden administration would offer Israel the security assistance it needs, the senior administration official said, though the US would not deploy American troops to the ground in such a scenario.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, Hezbollah’s provocations against Israel have continued – and escalated in recent weeks. Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it does not wish to see yet another war break out on Israel’s northern front, urging diplomatic de-escalation. This week, US envoy Amos Hochstein was dispatched to the region to try to help de-escalate the conflict.

Still, with Hezbollah’s attacks across the border into Israel continuing in the absence of a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, US officials are on heightened alert about the eruption of a full-blown conflict in the region. If Hezbollah were to significantly expand the scale of its attacks on Israel, resulting in the deaths of Israelis, US officials expect Israel to respond with full force.

As CNN reported, US officials have serious concerns that in the event of a full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group could overwhelm Israel’s air defenses in the north — including the much-vaunted Iron Dome air defense system. That reality would make the US’ full support of Israel all the more critical.

In this week’s meetings, US and Israeli officials discussed possible “off-ramps” to try to lower the temperature along the so-called Blue Line that separates Lebanon and Israel, the senior administration official said. Those talks touched on ways of returning Israelis and Lebanese people who have been displaced from the border back to their homes, they said.

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