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France has delivered a written proposal to Lebanon to end hostilities with Israel and settle the disputed Lebanon-Israel frontier, according to a document seen by Reuters that calls for fighters including Hezbollah’s elite unit to withdraw 10 km from the border.
The plan aims to end fighting between the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel at the border.
The document, the first written proposal brought to Beirut during weeks of Western mediation, was delivered to top Lebanese state officials including Prime Minister Najib Mikati by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne last week, Reuters reported, citing four senior Lebanese and three French officials.
Since the war began between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on October 7, there has been growing fear that daily clashes between the Lebanese armed group and Israel could spiral into a full-scale war.
Hezbollah fighters and allied Palestinian groups in southern Lebanon joined the conflict on October 8 and since then, heavy Israeli and artillery strikes have hit Hezbollah targets, while the group has fired volleys of rockets into Israel – 30 in one day last week.
Cross-border fire since the start of the Israel-Hamas war has killed at least 238 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also about 30 civilians, AFP said.
More than 28,300 people have been killed in Gaza under fierce Israeli bombardment, after Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people.
Within 10 days of the Hezbollah withdrawal, Lebanon and Israel would resume negotiations on delimiting the land border “in a gradual way” and with the support of the UN peacekeeping force Unifil, the plan proposes.
Further talks would aim to expand the de-escalation zone to 30km from the border up to the Litani river, in line with a 2006 peace plan following the last Israel-Hezbollah conflict, which saw about 1,300 people killed in Lebanon, mostly civilians, in over a month of intense fighting. About 165 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were also killed.
The limited Hezbollah withdrawal in the current proposal would stop the group’s anti-tank guided missile attacks inside Israel due to their short range, weapons mainly responsible for killing nine soldiers and six civilians, while also limiting attacks by some of Hezbollah’s shorter range rockets and mortars.
At the same time, Israel would halt air and artillery strikes inside Lebanon. Of the latter, Israel has been found to be using white phosphorus, a highly toxic substance that burns on contact with air and causes gruesome burn injuries.
Hezbollah reportedly dismissed the proposal in remarks to Reuters, with politician Hassan Fadlallah saying it would not negotiate with the “enemy” who were trying to “impose conditions”, while “Israeli aggression” in Gaza was continuing. Israel said it was studying the proposals.
Updated: February 13, 2024, 5:29 AM