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Can Blinken restrain Israel from war with Hezbollah as Lebanon front escalates?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived to Israel with two goals: preventing Israel and Hezbollah from engaging in a full-blown war and pushing the Israeli military to scale down its operations in the Gaza Strip.
Hezbollah fighters and supporters attend the funeral of slain Hezbollah military commander Wissam Tawil, also know as Jawad, in his hometown of Khirbet Selm, south of Beirut on January 9, 2024. Hezbollah announced on January 8 the killing of a "commander" for the first time, naming him as Wissam Hassan Tawil. A security souce in Lebanon, requesting anonymity for security reasons, said Tawil "had a leading role in managing Hezbollah's operations in the south", and was killed there by an Israeli strike target

TEL AVIV — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken started his meetings in Israel Tuesday morning on a complicated note amid Israeli skepticism of the possibility of reaching an agreement with Lebanon for Hezbollah to withdraw to the far side of the Litani River.

While Blinken was meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, the Lebanese National News Agency reported a drone strike that hit a car in the southern village of Ghandouriyeh. As Blinken met with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, alarms sounded across the north of the country, warning of a drone strike from Lebanon. And while he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli military said it was retaliating for the Hezbollah drone that fell at an army base. 

"The last thing the Biden administration needs now is for the northern front to erupt into a regional war, and maybe even beyond," a Middle East diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. 

Thwarting a full-blown war scenario on Israel’s northern front was only one of the goals set by Blinken on his Middle East tour. The second was pushing Israel to phase out intensive fighting in Gaza and move toward a third stage of the war involving targeted, precise attacks with fewer forces on the ground and much less bombardment. 

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