Some members of the Biden administration are concerned that Israel is looking to provoke Hezbollah as a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw in the US, Axios reported on Sunday.
Since the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, Hezbollah and Israel have been fighting across the Lebanon-Israel border, including a November 5 Israeli airstrike that killed a woman and three children. The skirmishes have killed over 60 Hezbollah fighters, several Lebanese civilians, and about 10 Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The Axios report said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “expressed concern” about the fighting on the border in a Saturday call with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant. The White House requested Austin relay the message due to “growing anxiety” that Israel’s military action is exacerbating tensions on the border.
The Pentagon’s readout of the call said Austin “emphasized the need to contain the conflict to Gaza and avoid regional escalation,” but it did not specifically mention Lebanon. Sources told Axios Austin asked for clarification about Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon and asked what steps would be taken to avoid a regional war.
While expressing concern about escalation, the US has emboldened Israel to be aggressive by deploying an enormous amount of firepower to the region in the name of protecting Israel. The US also intervened directly to intercept missiles and drones in the Red Sea that were fired toward Israel by the Houthis in Yemen.
The US has issued warnings to Hezbollah, the implied threat being that the US could intervene directly against them if the situation escalates into a full-blown war. According to Axios, President Biden’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, delivered a “strong warning” to Hezbollah through the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament when he visited the country last week.