Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Hochstein Seeks to Ease Tensions to Prevent Israel from Expanding War to Lebanon

 US envoy Amos Hochstein meets with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri during a visit to Beirut. (AFP)
US envoy Amos Hochstein meets with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri during a visit to Beirut. (AFP)
TT

Hochstein Seeks to Ease Tensions to Prevent Israel from Expanding War to Lebanon

 US envoy Amos Hochstein meets with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri during a visit to Beirut. (AFP)
US envoy Amos Hochstein meets with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri during a visit to Beirut. (AFP)

Senior adviser to US President Joe Biden Amos Hochstein will travel to Beirut and Tel Aviv to try to prevent a recent escalation between Israel and Hezbollah from turning into an all-out war.

He will first head to Tel Aviv on Monday before flying to Beirut. The unscheduled visit underscores Washington’s efforts to prevent Israel from expanding its war on Gaza to southern Lebanon.

As it stands, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his military commanders are ignoring Washington’s pleas.

The American administration still holds Hezbollah responsible for the current escalation, a western source told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt.

It added that there is no justification for expanding the conflict, although Hezbollah has intensified its attacks against Israel in retaliation to its assassination of one of its most prominent field commanders, Taleb Sami al-Abdullah.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Lebanon Liz Johnson had held talks with caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib about the developments in the South and efforts to contain the tensions.

She warned that Washington will not provide political cover should the conflict expand.

Bou Habib, for his part, said Lebanon has received warnings that Israel intended to expand the war. Warnings have also poured in from several countries, urging restraint and against Lebanon getting dragged to war.

Parliamentary sources quoted influential American circles as saying that Netanyahu is ignoring the White House’s advice against expanding the war.

They believe that restoring calm in the South starts with a ceasefire in Gaza. The conflict in the South began when Hezbollah launched attacks against Israel in support of Hamas in Gaza.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Deif’s Assassination Attempt in Gaza Took Weeks of Close Surveillance

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
TT

Deif’s Assassination Attempt in Gaza Took Weeks of Close Surveillance

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

For weeks, Israel kept watch on a palm-tree-dotted villa in southern Gaza where it believed a top Hamas lieutenant was staying with his family, but it held off on a strike, according to three senior Israeli defense officials.

The Israelis had a bigger target in mind: Muhammad Deif, the elusive leader of Hamas’s military wing, according to a report published by The New York Times on Monday.

The officials said that on Saturday, after learning that Deif appeared to be at the villa, the Israeli government sent in fighter jets that devastated the compound and killed dozens of Palestinians in the area around it.

The Israeli army and the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, said on Sunday that the strike had killed the lieutenant, Rafa Salameh.

But the fate of Deif, who is second in command of Hamas and considered an architect of its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, remained unclear.

The Israeli government also defended the decision to order the strike — which the officials said used at least five US-made precision-guided bombs — in an area Israel itself has designated a humanitarian zone for Palestinians driven from their homes by the war between Israel and Hamas.

The strike was authorized after prolonged observation of the villa, one of Salameh’s secret command posts, according to the three senior Israeli officials.

The villa is in an area known as Al-Mawasi, west of Khan Younis near the Mediterranean Sea.

It belonged to Salameh’s family, two of the officials said, and Salameh began spending more time there in recent months after Israeli forces overran many of his other strongholds in Khan Younis, both above and below ground, according to two of the officials.

Salameh still spent much of his time in Hamas’s underground tunnel network, but he also stayed regularly at the villa, along with his family and other militants, to escape the stifling conditions in the tunnels, the officials said.

Officers from an Israeli unit that oversees the identification of high-value targets, staffed by operatives from military intelligence and the Shin Bet, detected Salameh’s presence several weeks ago, the officials said.

But, they added, Israeli leaders decided to delay any attempts to kill him to see if he would be joined at some point by Deif.

Earlier assassination attempts against Deif are believed to have left him disabled, and he may be missing an eye and limbs. The Israeli military believes that he has developed health problems that force him to spend more time than other Hamas leaders do above ground, outside the tunnel network, the officials said.

On Friday, Israeli intelligence officers received information suggesting that Deif had appeared at the villa, the officials said. The news was sent up the chain of command to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed off on the strike, he said.

When the military received further indications of Deif’s presence after 10 a.m. on Saturday, it sent in the jets. It also launched an additional airstrike near emergency responders, videos and photographs reviewed by The New York Times show.

At least 90 people were killed, about half of them women and children, and 300 were wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Reports from the Gaza Strip described hospitals overwhelmed by injured Palestinians.

A Hamas official suggested on Sunday that Deif remained very much alive.

Netanyahu himself, in a televised news conference on Saturday night, said there was still no “absolute certainty” that Deif had been killed.