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Netanyahu: Israel Poised for War in Lebanon, Partial Drawdown in Gaza

© AFP 2023 / EMMANUEL DUNANDIn this file photo taken on March 24, 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at the party campaign headquarters in Jerusalem after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years.
In this file photo taken on March 24, 2021, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at the party campaign headquarters in Jerusalem after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years. - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.06.2024
The Israeli Prime Minister said the country would direct its attention to its northern border, where Hezbollah has been carrying out rocket and drone attacks in response to the IDF’s deadly campaign in Gaza.
Israel is planning to remove some troops from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an interview on Israeli television Sunday less than a week after the IDF reported it had approved plans for a possible military operation in Lebanon.
Forces would be redirected to the north of the country, he claimed, where Israel and the armed group Hezbollah have been trading fire for months.
“We will do this, first and foremost for defensive purposes,” Netanyahu said to the controversial Channel 14 network. “And secondly, to allow our residents to return home.”
Some 60,000 Israeli citizens have been evacuated from the country’s northern region since October of last year, with Tel Aviv funding temporary accommodations for the internal refugees. Hezbollah has continuously subjected the area to rocket and drone attacks in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where more than 37,500 have been killed.
The conflagration on the border with Lebanon has caused a political and security headache for the Israeli government even as international media has focused on the country’s operation against Hamas.
Fires burn as a result of rockets launched from Lebanon into northern Israel on June 3, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.06.2024
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Meanwhile the prime minister suggested Israel would remove some troops from Gaza shortly, claiming the end of its “intense phase” in the internationally-recognized Palestinian territory is “very close.” Netanyahu stressed the IDF would maintain a presence in the enclave but would seek to free up resources for potential fighting in Lebanon.
“If we can do this diplomatically, great,” he said of attempts to end attacks in northern Israel. “If not, we will do it another way… We can fight on several fronts. We are prepared for this.”
But observers have questioned Israel’s ability to challenge Hezbollah, one of the most heavily armed non-state groups in the world. The country was widely judged to have lost its 2006 war with the Palestinian resistance group, which has grown more powerful in the years since. Hezbollah is estimated to possess some 150,000 rockets and missiles, which it is able to procure much more cheaply than Israel’s US-provided armaments.
Israel’s international reputation and military readiness have suffered severely during nine months of fighting in Gaza. Hundreds of IDF members have been killed and some 3,000 have been injured, many of them suffering permanent disability. The number is significant in a country of less than ten million that relies on a fighting force of civilian reservists.
Hezbollah fighters hold flags as they attend the memorial of their slain leader Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.06.2024
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Netanyahu dissolved Israel’s emergency war cabinet last week after the resignation of opposition leader Benny Gantz, who is typically seen as more outwardly amenable to the Biden administration’s public concerns. Observers say the development could make the Israeli prime minister more dependent on more hardline members of his political coalition. But such figures have balked at previous attempts to remove troops from Gaza as Hamas has re-emerged in northern and central areas of the enclave.
The Israeli leader would count on continued military aid and perhaps even US boots on the ground for a campaign in Lebanon. Netanyahu’s sitdown with Channel 14 was his first interview in Hebrew in 14 months, symbolizing the importance of American support as the prime minister has remained a fixture in US media.
In addition to the 60,000 Israelis displaced by fighting in the north, it’s estimated that half a million Israelis have fled the country entirely since October 7. Israel has suffered severe economic consequences in recent months; recently chipmaker Intel announced it was suspending a $15 billion effort to build a new factory in the country, citing “business conditions, market dynamics and responsible capital management.”
Palestinian boy Haitham Matar, who suffers from malnutrition, lies on a hospital bed in Gaza City on May 28, 2009. Israel's recent war on Gaza brought the enclave to the brink of a catastrophe, Amnesty International said on May 28, also lambasting the two main Palestinian factions for human rights violations. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.04.2024
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