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French foreign minister launches diplomatic rescue mission in Lebanon

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France Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, will embark on a diplomatic mission to Lebanon on Saturday.

The visit comes against the backdrop of increasing fears of a broader conflict, marked by Iran-backed groups targeting US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria, as well as daily exchanges of fire along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Christophe Lemoine emphasized the urgency of preventing a regional eruption, stating, “We must avoid a regional eruption.”

Colonna is expected to call for “restraint” and “responsibility” to prevent the Israeli-Lebanese border from becoming a new front line in the ongoing tensions.

The recent series of cross-border exchanges between Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Hamas ally in Lebanon, and Israel, have intensified since the unprecedented October 7 attacks by the Palestinian group.

Israel’s response included a relentless military offensive on Gaza, resulting in significant destruction and casualties.

Notably, French officials are also actively seeking the release of French hostages, particularly in light of the recovery of the body of French-Israeli hostage Elya Toledano, who was seized at a desert rave party during the October 7 attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of severe consequences if Hezbollah opts for a full-fledged war, stating, “If Hezbollah chooses to wage a full-fledged war on us, then it will transform, with its own hands, Beirut and South Lebanon into Gaza and Khan Yunis.”

Amid these developments, Western governments, including the United States and France, are intensifying behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from escalating into a full-out war.

French officials emphasize the need for responsibility and restraint on both sides, aiming to avert a broader conflict.

Israel’s current objective involves pushing Hezbollah forces back from the border, particularly the elite al-Radwan unit equipped with heavy artillery.

France aligns with the United Nations Security Council’s resolution 1701, advocating that only the official Lebanese army and UN’s UNIFIL force be deployed in southern Lebanon.

As part of the diplomatic initiative, France, being the largest contributor to UNIFIL with 700 soldiers, plans to engage with peacekeeping forces on the ground.

The visit aims to address ongoing border disputes, including Israel’s withdrawal from farms in the town of Chebaa and the Lebanese part of the village of Ghajar.

While mediation efforts focus on settling the border dispute, the French Foreign Minister is scheduled to travel to Israel and the occupied West Bank on Sunday, reinforcing appeals for responsibility and restraint in this critical juncture.

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