French proposal would move Hezbollah 6 miles from border


February 23, 2024

(JNS) — Paris has brought a proposal to Beirut that aims to prevent a full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah over the Iranian terrorist proxy’s cross-border attacks from Lebanon.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné delivered the draft document to top officials in the Lebanese capital including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Reuters reported on Monday, citing four senior Lebanese and three French officials.

Additionally, Jerusalem and Hezbollah were presented with the two-page proposal, underscoring the importance placed on it by French mediators.

The proposal calls for Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces to withdraw 6 miles from the Israeli border, where they have been carrying out daily attacks on Upper Galilee communities since the radical Shi’ite group joined the war in support of Hamas.

That distance still falls some 13 miles short of the Litani River; Hezbollah is not supposed to be present south of the river, according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Nearly 100,000 residents of northern Israel were displaced in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of some 1,200 people near the Gaza border amid fears that Hezbollah’s Radwan fighters could attempt a similar invasion from Lebanon.

Israel has said that while a diplomatic solution is preferable, a military confrontation with Hezbollah is on the table to return residents to their homes safely.

Asked at his daily press briefing on Tuesday to confirm whether Israel is considering the French proposal, government spokesperson Eylon Levy stressed that the solution lies in enforcing Security Council Resolution 1701.

“There is a diplomatic window. We hope that it is still possible to reach a diplomatic solution in that window that will make it safe for Israelis to return to their homes in northern Israel, but the current situation is intolerable. Our position is clear: Either Hezbollah backs away or we will have to push it away ourselves,” Levy said.

Hezbollah on Tuesday reiterated that it will not stop attacking across the border until the fighting in Gaza ends. 

Hassan Fadlallah, a senior Hezbollah politician representing the Bint Jbeil district in parliament, said the group would not discuss “any matter related to the situation in the south before the halt of the aggression on Gaza,” adding that “the enemy is not in the position to impose conditions.”

Israel is committed to destroying Hamas in Gaza and is planning a major military offensive in its last stronghold of Rafah on the Egyptian border after the IDF finishes its conquest of nearby Khan Yunis. The Gaza ground operations could take many more months to complete.

Amos Hochstein

U.S. Middle East envoy Amos Hochstein has been engaging in negotiations similar to those of the French in recent weeks, in an effort to calm the situation at the Israeli-Lebanese border and reach a long-term solution to disputes over demarcating the border. However, Reuters reported last month that Hezbollah rejected some of Hochstein’s suggestions.

“We made proposals. We are in contact with the Americans and it’s important that we bring together all initiatives and build peace,” Séjourné said at a press conference on Monday.

According to the French document seen by Reuters, the three-step plan calls for a 10-day de-escalation followed by negotiations on the border. Armed groups in Southern Lebanon, including Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist factions, would withdraw 6 miles north of the frontier. This would include the Radwan forces and anti-tank missile systems.

Concerning the 6-mile distance, a Western diplomat told the news agency that it would help ensure that rockets did not reach villages in northern Israel that have been targeted with anti-tank missile fire and was seen as “more palatable to Hezbollah” than a withdrawal to the Litani River.

Up to 15,000 Lebanese Army troops would be deployed to Southern Lebanon.

In summary, the three steps would entail a ceasefire and withdrawal, and then the deployment of Lebanese soldiers in the south.

Beirut has raised objections to the draft document, including the demand that terrorist groups dismantle facilities close to the Israeli border, with the Lebanese claiming it could be used against Hezbollah-affiliated civilian institutions.

Jerusalem said it has received the proposal and the government is examining it.

The U.S. “continues to explore all diplomatic options with our Israeli and Lebanese counterparts to restore calm and avoid escalation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces attacked a vehicle carrying Hezbollah operatives in the Maroun al-Ras region and destroyed terrorist infrastructure in the areas of Al-Adisa, Al-Khyam and Tir Harfa al Jabin, all in Southern Lebanon.

It was unclear whether Muhammad Abd al-Rasoul Alawiyah, the Hezbollah member in charge of the Maroun al-Ras region, survived the targeted killing attempt, which slew several people.

The IDF has struck more than 3,400 Hezbollah targets in Southern Lebanon since the Iranian terrorist proxy joined the war in support of Hamas.

Hezbollah fired more than 2,000 rockets at Israel between Oct. 8 and Jan. 9. Additionally, the group has launched dozens of anti-tank missiles and drones at Israeli territory.

The Hezbollah attacks have led to military and civilian deaths and widespread damage in the Upper Galilee.


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