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Israel allies warn against Gaza war spreading to Lebanon

June 26, 2024

The US and Germany have warned against the Gaza conflict escalating into a wider war, while Turkey has said it supports Lebanon. Last week, Israel said its plans for a Lebanon offensive had been "approved and validated."

Smoke rises from the southern Lebanese town of Khiam, southern Lebanon
Regional and international players have warned of the conflict spilling over into LebanonImage: Stringer/REUTERS

Israel's allies and Middle East players have echoed warnings regarding the spread of the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, after Israel said its plans for an offensive on Lebanon, where it is expected to face the Islamist Hezbollah militia, have been "approved and validated."

The US, Germany and Turkey have all responded with concern. While Berlin and Washington have cautioned against the consequences of the expansion of war, Ankara has pledged solidarity with Lebanon and called on other regional players to join in.

Separately, the UN's most senior official in charge of humanitarian affairs also warned such an escalation could be "apocalyptic."

"I see it as the flash point... It's potentially apocalyptic," Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

Israeli forces have been engaged in constant hostile exchanges with Iran-backed Hezbollah militants since Hamas triggered the current Gaza conflict with its October 7 attacks. 

What did Turkey say?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the issue in statements on Wednesday. He accused the West of backing what he described as Israeli plans to attack Lebanon and "spread war" throughout the region.

"[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's plans to spread the war to the region will lead to a big catastrophe," he said, adding that the Western support for Israel was "pitiful."

"Turkey stands with the brotherly people and state of Lebanon. I call on other countries in the region to stand in solidarity with Lebanon," Erdogan added.

US, Germany warn of 'terrible consequences'

Meanwhile, Israel's Western allies have issued stern warnings against regional escalation.

"Another war would mean a regional escalation on a scale that we can hardly imagine," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told Germany's Deutschlandfunk public radio on Wednesday.

Baerbock met with Lebanese and Israeli leaders on Tuesday, during a regional tour.

The German top diplomat warned of the danger of Israel and Lebanon slipping into a war.

"And that is exactly what we need to prevent, that through the daily escalation, where more rockets are flying, large parts on both sides do not want this war, but we are slipping into it," she said.

Expert: Israel-Hezbollah war 'would be a disaster'


US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also echoed similar statements during a meeting Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant in Washington.

"Another war between Israel and Hezbollah could easily become a regional war, with terrible consequences for the Middle East," Austin said. "Diplomacy is by far the best way to prevent more escalation."

Berlin urges German citizens to leave Lebanon

Germany's Foreign Ministry also urged issued an urgent appeal to German nationals to leave Lebanon.

"Tensions in the border areas with Israel are heightened and could escalate further at any time," they said on Wednesday. The ministry also warned of an increased risk of terror attacks, possibly directed against Westerners or large hotels.

The October 7 attacks left some 1,200 killed in Israel, mostly civilians, while Palestinian militants also took around 250 hostage. Around 116 hostages are still unaccounted for in Gaza, although the Israeli army has said 42 are dead.

Israel responded with a tightened siege and an extended military operation on the Gaza Strip, with the stated aim of eradicating Hamas. Over 37,700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict so far, also mostly civilians, according to the health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are designated as terrorist organizations by several countries.

How capable is Hezbollah of fighting a war against Israel?

rmt/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)