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In apparent attempt to prevent escalation in Lebanon, special envoy Hochstein will arrive in Israel today

Hochstein has previous experience in negotiating between Lebanon and Israel

U.S. Special Envoy Amos Hochstein arrives to meet with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon November 7, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Amos Hochstein, the special envoy of U.S. President Joe Biden, is set to arrive in Israel on Thursday. 

The announcement regarding his visit follows the assassination of Hamas Deputy Saleh al-Arouri on Tuesday, and the killing of four Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon yesterday, including a senior commander, Hussein Yazbak.

Hochstein’s arrival comes as Israel is feeling increasingly constrained in its options to deal with Hezbollah. Israel had requested international help in getting Hezbollah to retreat past the Litani River, as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701

Hochstein was instrumental in the signing of the maritime border deal between Lebanon and Israel in 2022.  the top diplomat also visited the Middle East several times last year before the war started in an attempt to prevent escalations between Israel and Hezbollah. During his most recent visit in November, he met with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati. 

“The United States does not want to see conflict in Gaza escalating and expanding into Lebanon,” Hochstein said at the time. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also departing for visit to the Middle East on Thursday, in which he will visit "a number of capitals, including Israel,” according to an unnamed American official. Blinken's trip is reportedly regarding U.S. efforts related to the war in Gaza.

With the assassination of Arouri in Lebanon – Hezbollah’s proverbial backyard – the pressure on Hezbollah General Hassan Nasrallah is high.

Nasrallah warned Israel in August regarding assassinations carried out on Lebanese soil. 

“Any assassination on Lebanese soil against a Lebanese Syrian, Iranian or Palestinian will be met with a decisive response. We will not tolerate this, and we will not allow Lebanon to become a new killing field for Israel,” Nasrallah said at the time. 

On Wednesday evening, Nasrallah gave a scheduled speech to commemorate the late Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, in which he addressed Arouri’s assassination, calling it "blatant Israeli aggression.”

Soleimani, the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was assassinated on January 3, 2020 in a targeted U.S. drone strike in Baghdad after visiting Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon. 

Nasrallah’s response to the killing was seen as restrained, compared to his previous threat of “a decisive response.” Instead of promising clear retaliation against Israel, Nasrallah warned against future Israeli aggressions. 

"If the enemy [Israel] considers waging a war against Lebanon, our battle will be boundless, without rules. If war is waged against Lebanon, Lebanon's interest will be to go to war all the way, unrestrained," Nasrallah said in his speech. 

Nasrallah did use the term “enemy aggression” would “not go unpunished,” but did not specify how the group would respond. 

The United states sent two carriers to the Mediterranean at the start of the war against the Hamas terror group, with the aim of preventing an escalation by Hezbollah, however, it is not clear what constitutes a severe escalation on the part of Hezbollah.

The terror group has carried out near-daily launches of rockets, anti-tank missiles, mortars and drone attacks against Israel since the start of the ground operations in Gaza. 

In a sign of frustration on Israel's part, just 90 minutes after Nasrallah’s speech ended, a fresh Israeli airstrike killed Nasrallah’s deputy, Hussein Yazbek, and three other Hezbollah operatives.

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

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