US: Gaza cease-fire can bring Israel-Hezbollah conflicts to an end

WASHINGTON — A cease-fire in Gaza can bring the conflicts along the Israel-Lebanon border to an end, senior U.S. officials said amid worries of an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah fighters based in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the United States is continuing to review one shipment of bombs for Israel over concerns about their use in the densely populated area of Rafah.

Diplomatic solution

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that officials are seeking a diplomatic way to end the battles along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon so civilians can safely return to their homes.

“Hezbollah has tied the actions that it’s committing against Israel to Gaza,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “If we get that cease-fire [in Gaza], I think that will make it more likely that we can find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in the north.”

In Beirut, U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein urged a de-escalation between Israel and Hezbollah.

Hochstein said earlier on Tuesday that a cease-fire in Gaza “could also bring the conflict across the Blue Line to an end.” He was referring to the demarcation line dividing Lebanon from Israel.

Last week, Iran-backed Hezbollah escalated hostilities on Lebanon’s southern border by launching rockets and weaponized drones at nine Israeli military sites. This was the largest attack by Hezbollah since October, when the group began exchanging fire with Israel in parallel with the Gaza war.

U.S. weapons shipments to Israel

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Blinken has “assured” him that the Biden administration is “working day and night to remove these bottlenecks” on U.S. supplies of weapons and ammunition to Israel.

The U.S. paused military shipments to Israel in May, including 1,800 907-kilogram (2,000-pound) bombs and 1,700 226-kilogram (500-pound) bombs, because of concerns over Israel’s plan to expand a military operation in Rafah, a densely populated city in southern Gaza, which the United States does not support.

Blinken told reporters the U.S. is still pausing a shipment of heavy bombs to Israel.

At the State Department, Blinken said the U.S. continues to “review one shipment that President Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs” due to concerns about their use in Rafah.

“But everything else is moving as it normally would move” to make sure Israel “has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” noted Blinken.

Meanwhile, Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and strategic affairs minister Ron Dermer are in Washington this week for discussions following the visit of U.S. special envoy Hochstein to Israel and Beirut.

Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday that a temporary pier built to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip is expected to be operational again this week. The U.S. military had disconnected the floating pier last week and moved it to the port of Ashdod in Israel because of bad weather.

VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this story.

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