Lebanon Stands Firm on Hezbollah Withdrawal to Litani River

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib rejected an international proposal for Hezbollah to withdraw away from Israel’s northern border to behind the Litani River, as set out under United Nations Security Council 1701. His statement was carried by the Arabic language newspaper Al-Watan in advance of a visit today by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, following his stop in Israel on Sunday. This formula of a Hezbollah withdrawal eight to ten kilometers from the Israeli border was “rejected by Lebanon, which will not accept half-solutions that do not bring the desired peace and do not secure stability,’ Bou Habib told Al-Watan. He demanded the full implementation of Resolution 1701, which included resolutions to points of geographical dispute between Israel and Lebanon, such as in the area of Sheba Farm area and the village Ghajar, explaining that no partial solutions were possible when it came to Resolution 1701, which set out the ceasefire terms that ended the second Lebanon War. That resolution forbids the presence of a non-state actor, such as the Iranian proxy group Hezbollah, in the area between the Litani River and Israel’s border. US special envoy Amos Hochstein, who last year spoke of the possibility of resolving the territorial dispute between the two countries, was in Israel on Sunday but, according to unconfirmed media reports, did not travel on to Lebanon. While in Israel, he met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, who previously held that post. Bou Habib’s statement comes amid an uptake in violence along the northern border and increased internal domestic pressure from Israeli evacuees in that area for a resolution to the crisis that would allow them to return home. Israeli officials have said that they prefer a diplomatic solution but would not hesitate to open a second front to forcibly force revue Hezbollah from the border. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli citizens would only be secure when Hamas in Gaza was removed from the southern border and Hezbollah from the northern one. “We will not stop the war without achieving this goal of total victory, which will restore security to both the south and the north.”