Thursday, July 25, 2024
Israeli defense chief heads to D.C. as Hezbollah escalates threats

Israeli defense chief heads to D.C. as Hezbollah escalates threats

World News

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is set to arrive in Washington on Sunday for meetings with U.S. officials, as the threat of a war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah continued to escalate.

Gallant will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials in D.C., Gallant’s office said in a statement. Gallant will discuss developments in Gaza and Lebanon and efforts to return the remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas, the statement said.

“The United States is our most important and central ally,” Gallant said before departing on Saturday night, according to the statement. “Our ties are crucial and perhaps more important than ever, at this time.”

In a video message released Saturday night, Hezbollah threatened to attack crucial Israeli buildings if a full-scale war were to break out in Lebanon. The video appears to display coordinates near a central Israeli airport, two power plants, a nuclear research center, a cargo port and a gas field.

The video features a clip of a speech that Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, delivered Wednesday: “If a war is imposed on Lebanon, the resistance will fight without restraints, without rules, without limits,” he said in the clip.


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U.S. officials have long urged Israel and Hezbollah to avoid a war, a message U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein reiterated to Israeli and Lebanese leaders in the Middle East last week.

Gallant’s trip, which his office said was at Austin’s invitation, also comes five days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Washington of delaying weapons shipments to Israel, comments White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby later called “perplexing.” Defending those comments at a cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said: “My job is to do everything to ensure that our heroic fighters receive the arms they need.”

Gallant last visited D.C. in March, days after Blinken and Israeli leaders debated whether Israel should expand military operations in Rafah, which Israeli officials said was necessary to defeat the remaining Hamas battalions. Israel’s military advanced deeper into Rafah last month, and last week, it said it was close to achieving its goals in the southern Gaza city.

But Israel could face more fighting against Hezbollah, which caught Israel off guard last week when it published drone footage of an Israeli military base at the port of Haifa. The video the militant group released Saturday lists multiple targets, including Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion, power plants in Ashkelon and Hadera, a plutonium-based facility in Dimona, the Leviathan gas field, a large natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, and Ashdod, a city that houses one of Israel’s main cargo ports.

Gallant said that discussions regarding the war during his D.C. visit are “particularly important and impactful at this time.”

“We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in additional areas,” Gallant said, according to his office.

The actions of Israel’s military spurred controversy in a separate region, the Wadi Burqin area of the West Bank, on Saturday. Footage that was widely circulated and verified by Reuters showed a man strapped to the hood of an Israeli military vehicle during a raid in the area. Two witnesses told The Washington Post that the man was an injured Palestinian detained during a Saturday raid.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that a suspect was injured in an exchange of fire during IDF “counterterrorism operations” in Wadi Burqin. Forces took the suspect while he was tied atop a vehicle, the IDF said, adding that those actions were “in violation of orders and standard operating procedures.”

The IDF said the person was transferred to the Palestine Red Crescent Society to receive medical treatment, but the humanitarian organization said in a statement that its crew was initially prevented from providing first aid to the injured person.

At least 38 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes on four neighborhoods in Gaza City on Saturday, the Gaza civil defense force said. Video from the Shati refugee camp in western Gaza City, verified by Storyful, showed entire blocks destroyed by the strike. In a statement, the IDF said its fighter jets “struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City,” without elaborating.

The Israeli military’s daily 11-hour pause on an aid corridor in southern Gaza has not helped deliver more resources to the area, Cindy McCain, the executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told Al-Monitor. “We’ve been shot at, and we’ve been rocketed. So as far as we can tell, there’s no difference at all,” McCain told the news outlet. The military announced its plans for limited “tactical pauses” along the road from the Kerem Shalom crossing last week.

Massive crowds of demonstrators turned out in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to call for the ouster of Netanyahu and demand that Israel reach a cease-fire deal with Hamas to free the remaining hostages in Gaza. Prominent Israeli author David Grossman, speaking at the rally, issued a call for Israelis to fill the streets. “Now’s the time to fight, men, women. Now’s the time to fill the roads and streets,” he said.

At least 37,598 ​​people have been killed and 86,032 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 313 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

Mohamad El Chamaa and Alon Rom contributed to this report.

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