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Israel-Hamas war: IDF approves Lebanon operation plans

Published June 18, 2024last updated June 18, 2024

The Israeli military has said plans to heighten troop readiness are already afoot. This followed a Foreign Ministry threat to bring "all-out war" to Hezbollah. DW has the latest.

Israeli soldiers patrol along a road near the border between Israel and Lebanon, in Israel
Israeli soldiers patrol near the border between Israel and Lebanon, where there are almost daily exchanges of fireImage: Francisco Seco/AP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US calls for 'urgent' de-escalation of cross-border fire on Lebanon-Israel border
  • Israeli military intelligence issued warnings of an imminent attack more than two weeks before the October 7 Hamas attack, according to media reports

Here is a roundup of developments in the Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday, June 18.

Skip next section IDF says plans for Lebanon attack approved
June 18, 2024

IDF says plans for Lebanon attack approved

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday said plans for an attack in southern Lebanon had been approved, adding that steps had been taken to "accelerate readiness in the field."

The news, put out as an IDF statement on the social media platform X, came as observers expressed growing concern over the heated situation along the Israel-Lebanon border. 

The statement was accompanied by a photo of Major General Ori Gordin, the head of IDF Northern Command; and Major General Oded Basiuk, who heads the IDF's Operations Division.

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

Earlier in the day, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz threatened to destroy Hezbollah in an "all-out war."

When asked about the IDF plan by reporters in Washington, Pentagon spokesman Major General Patrick Ryder said, "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and speculate on what might happen other than to say no one wants to see a wider regional war."

Hezbollah fires barrage of missiles into northern Israel

Skip next section Israel warns Hezbollah: 'destruction' and 'all-out war'
June 18, 2024

Israel warns Hezbollah: 'destruction' and 'all-out war'

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday warned Iran-backed Hezbollah militants that they faced "destruction" amid "all-out war" at the Israel-Lebanon border.

Concerns have grown that the conflict in Gaza could boil over along the Lebanese border, where fire has been regularly exchanged since Gaza-based Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. 

Katz made the threat after Hezbollah published a surveillance video that it purports to have taken over various Israeli military, infrastructure and civilian installations, including some in the Israeli port city of Haifa.

"We are very close to the moment of decision to change the rules against Hezbollah and Lebanon," said Katz in a post on the social media platform X. "In an all-out war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit."

Speaking from Lebanon Tuesday, US Envoy Amos Hochstein called for de-escalation, saying, "It's in everyone's interest to resolve [the conflict] quickly and diplomatically… that is both achievable and it is urgent."

Skip next section More than 120,000 killed or injured in Gaza since October 7 — UN human rights chief
June 18, 2024

More than 120,000 killed or injured in Gaza since October 7 — UN human rights chief

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Tuesday said he was, "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law by parties to the conflict in Gaza," saying the conflict had brought "unconscionable death and suffering."

Türk cited data showing a 72% jump in civilian deaths in armed conflict during a statement opening a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where he directly addressed the ongoing conflict playing out in Gaza.

"More than 120,000 people in Gaza, overwhelmingly women and children, have been killed or injured since 7 October, as a result of the intensive Israeli offensives," the UN human rights chief said.

He also spoke of the "situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem," which he said, "is dramatically deteriorating," noting that, "528 Palestinians … had been killed by Israeli security forces and/or settlers since October."

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza," Türk continued, "are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction. The arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued, and Israel continues to arbitrarily detain thousands of Palestinians. This must end."

Turning to Hamas, and its allies, Türk said, "Palestinian armed groups continue to hold many hostages, and, in some cases in densely populated areas, putting them and Palestinian civilians at further risk. These hostages must be released."

Türk also expressed his concerns over the escalating conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah militants at the Lebanese border.

"Already 401 people have reportedly been killed in Lebanon, including paramedics and journalists. Over 90,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon, and over 60,000 have been displaced in Israel with 25 Israeli fatalities," he said.

Skip next section Blinken: No one wants to see Israel-Hezbollah escalation
June 18, 2024

Blinken: No one wants to see Israel-Hezbollah escalation

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the US doesn't think "Israel, Hezbollah, or Lebanon want to see conflict [along the Israel-Lebanon border] escalate." 

Blinken, speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington D.C., said a cease-fire in Gaza would make it easier to ensure the situation in northern Israel did not deteriorate further. His comments mirrored those made by US special envoy Amos Hochstein earlier in the day.

Blinken declined to confirm remarks from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he had assured Netanyahu the US was working to remove limits on supplies of US weapons to Israel, but he said the Biden administration was "continuing to review one shipment that President Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area, like Rafah."

"But everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges."

As for the US-supported peace deal, Blinken said Hamas remained the biggest obstacle to implementing a cease-fire, demanding they could "end the war right now" by finally signing it.

Skip next section Netanyahu says Blinken assured him of lifting US restrictions on arms supplies
June 18, 2024

Netanyahu says Blinken assured him of lifting US restrictions on arms supplies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift the restrictions on the supply of weapons to Israel.

In a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, Netanyahu said that in his meeting last week with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he expressed appreciation for the support the United States has given Israel since the start of the war against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in October.

However, the Israeli prime minister also said it was "inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel."

According to Netanyahu, Blinken made clear that the Biden administration was working "day and night" to remove any bottlenecks.

"I certainly hope that's the case. It should be the case," Netanyahu said. "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job a lot faster."

President Joe Biden warned Israel last month that the US would cut off weapons supplies if Israeli forces launched a major invasion of Rafah, a town in southern Gaza where many refugees have sought shelter. Nevertheless, Israeli forces launched an offensive in Rafah days later.

Skip next section Hezbollah releases drone footage purporting to show Israel's Haifa
June 18, 2024

Hezbollah releases drone footage purporting to show Israel's Haifa

Lebanon's pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement released a video of what it said was footage taken by its surveillance aircraft of locations in Israel, including the city of Haifa's seaport and airport.

The group's chief, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said in November 2023 that Hezbollah had sent surveillance drones over Haifa.

Haifa is 27 kilometers (17 miles) from the Lebanese border. The Israeli army said it was investigating the reports.

The news came as US envoy Amos Hochstein held talks with Lebanese officials and called for an "urgent" de-escalation of cross-border fire between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli forces.

The US and France have said they are working on a negotiated settlement to the hostilities along Lebanon's southern border.

Tensions rise on Israel's northern border with Lebanon

Skip next section UN calls environmental impact of Gaza war 'unprecedented'
June 18, 2024

UN calls environmental impact of Gaza war 'unprecedented'

The conflict in Gaza has caused unprecedented soil, water and air pollution in the region, destroying sanitation systems and leaving behind tons of explosive debris, according to a preliminary assessment released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The war between Israel and Hamas reversed the limited progress made in Gaza's environmental management systems, such as the improvement of the region's water desalination and wastewater treatment facilities, the restoration of the Wadi Gaza coastal wetland, and the rapid growth of solar power installations, the report said.

The conflict has produced an estimated 39 million tons of debris, or more than 107 kilograms per square meter of the Gaza Strip, according to UNEP. That is more than five times the debris generated during the 2017 battle for Mosul in Iraq, the report said.

According to UNEP, Gaza's water, sanitation and hygiene systems have all but collapsed as the enclave's five sewage treatment plants have shut down, exacerbating an already dire situation — a 2020 UN report stated that more than 92% of water in the enclave at the time was unfit for human consumption.

"We urgently need a ceasefire to save lives and restore the environment, to enable Palestinians to start to recover from the conflict and rebuild their lives and livelihoods in Gaza," said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director.

Although Eoghan Darbyshire, a senior researcher at the UK-based nonprofit Conflict and Environment Observatory, warned that "it is my opinion that large areas of Gaza will not be recovered to a safe state within a generation, even with limitless finance and will."

Skip next section Israeli intelligence warned of Hamas plans, media report says
June 18, 2024

Israeli intelligence warned of Hamas plans, media report says

More than two weeks before Hamas launched its terror attack from Gaza on October 7, 2023, Israeli military intelligence issued clear warnings of an impending attack, according to Kan, Israel's public broadcaster.

Plans to attack military bases and settlements and to take "200-250 people" hostage, including women and children, were outlined in a document distributed within the Gaza Division of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on September 19, 2023, the Kan report said.

The military report came from the highly respected Unit 8200, an IDF intelligence-gathering unit, but was reportedly ignored by senior officers. The worst-case scenario considered was that a few dozen terrorists could infiltrate Israel at three points.

According to the broadcaster, senior officers in the Gaza Division reportedly dismissed the warnings.

The unprecedented Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The militants also took around 240 people hostage, roughly 120 of whom are believed to still be in Gaza.

Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by Germany, Israel, and the US among others.

Israeli military rescues hostages held by Hamas

Skip next section US envoy calls Lebanese-Israeli border situation 'serious'
June 18, 2024

US envoy calls Lebanese-Israeli border situation 'serious'

US special envoy Amos Hochstein said his country is working to avoid a "greater war" between Israel and the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. He described the situation as "serious."

"We have seen an escalation over the last few weeks and what [US President Joe] Biden wants to do is to avoid a further escalation to a greater war. That is the effort here," Hochstein told reporters after holding talks with Lebanon's House Speaker Nabih Berri, a close ally of Hezbollah.

The envoy said it is in everyone's interest to resolve the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah quickly and diplomatically.

"That is both achievable and urgent," he added.

Hochstein arrived in the Lebanese capital early Tuesday and is expected to hold talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.

Hezbollah pledged support for Hamas against Israel after the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas, although the two groups do not always see eye to eye. The Lebanon-based group has fought Israel before in several deadly wars and is classified as a terror organization by the latter, the US and several Arab states.

dh/ab (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)