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France proposes withdrawal of Hezbollah from border as part of Israel-Lebanon ceasefire

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah gestures as he holds a Hezbollah flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon May 7, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Aziz Taher)

France has submitted a formal document to the Lebanese government with the aim of ending the ongoing border area fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.

The French proposal, which was delivered to Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, reportedly calls for the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces - including its Radwan elite force - about a 6-mile (10-kilometer) distance from the border between Lebanon and Israel. The plan also suggests an end to Hezbollah and Israeli military operations in the north.

Following the surprise Hamas attack on Oct. 7, its ally Hezbollah began attacking northern Israel, in solidarity with Hamas and in accordance with Iranian instructions.

The French government’s proposal seeks to contain the conflict “that risks spiraling out of control,” due to the entrenchment of Hezbollah operatives along the Lebanon-Israel border. Paris hopes that a de-escalation of the conflict will lead to “a potential ceasefire, when the conditions are right.” 

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said on Monday that the ultimate goal of the proposal is to achieve peace in the region.

“We made proposals. We are in contact with the Americans and it’s important that we bring together all initiatives and build peace,” Séjourné said.

The French government also hopes a ceasefire could facilitate renewed border negotiations between Lebanon and Israel. Lebanon, which was a French Mandate until 1945, has maintained strong diplomatic and cultural ties with Paris.

Hezbollah announced on Tuesday that it refuses to discuss the French de-escalation proposal. The decision to end the fighting will ultimately depend on Hezbollah’s patron, Iran.

In January, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in the region in an effort to de-escalate the northern border conflict. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the senior Biden administration official that Jerusalem intends to restore security for its citizens.

“We are resolute in bringing about fundamental change along our border with Lebanon, ensuring our citizens’ safety and restoring peace to our northern region,” Netanyahu pledged.

“The security of our people is paramount. We will persist until this goal is realized, be it through diplomatic means or otherwise.”

The ongoing Hezbollah aggression against northern Israel has forced some 80,000 Israelis to leave their homes. On the Lebanese side, at least 130,000 people have left towns and villages in southern Lebanon due to Hezbollah’s ongoing aggression and Israel’s military response.

UN Resolution 1701, which was passed after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the removal of all terrorist operatives along the border with Israel, up to the Litani River.

However, 18 years later, Hezbollah remains in the area, and stronger than ever, reportedly with an arsenal of more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, many of which can reach any point inside of Israel.

In December, the Alma Research and Education Center, which focuses on security issues along Israel’s northern borders - warned that Hezbollah’s elite force, Radwan, was ready to invade.

“The Radwan unit is fully trained and capable of launching an incursion into the Galilee at any given moment,” the center’s researchers assessed.

“Even if the majority of Hezbollah’s elite forces have distanced themselves from the border, there is no change to Hezbollah’s overall readiness.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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