UN officials warn of ‘miscalculation’ along Israel-Lebanon border

The Lebanon-based officials raise alarm of possible war escalation as Hezbollah-Israel fighting intensifies.

Lebanese <span>civil defence</span> firefighters and residents douse a fire from Israeli military shelling in the village of Shebaa [Rabih Daher/AFP]

Two United Nations officials based in Lebanon have warned that there is a “very real” threat of miscalculation that could lead to a wider war as cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and Israel rages.

The warning on Saturday came from the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and the head of UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, Aroldo Lazaro.

In a statement, they said they were “deeply concerned” about the recent clashes along Lebanon’s southern border.

“The danger of miscalculation leading to a sudden and wider conflict is very real,” the two officials said.

They urged “all actors to cease their fire and commit to working toward a political and diplomatic solution”.

Earlier this week, Hezbollah launched the largest volley yet of rockets and drones towards Israel since the war on Gaza began on October 7. That came as Israel upped its attacks on Hezbollah commanders and infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

Surge in fighting

For eight months, Hezbollah has promised to continue attacks on northern Israel to draw Israeli forces away from the war in Gaza. While ebbing and flowing at various times, the cross-border assaults have remained persistent.

But the most recent surge in fighting has led to concern that the violence could boil over. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to restore security along the border “one way or the other”.

Far-right ministers in his cabinet have gone further, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir calling for outright war and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calling for a ground invasion.

On Tuesday, a strike in the southern Lebanon village of Jouaiya killed field commander Taleb Abdallah, considered the most senior Hezbollah member to die during eight months of hostilities.

The next day, top Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said the group would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks”.

The surge continued through Saturday, with Hezbollah saying it targeted the Meron base in northern Israel with “guided missiles” and sent “attack drones” towards another Israeli base.

Israel’s military, meanwhile, said its “aircraft struck a Hezbollah terrorist” in south Lebanon’s Aitaroun area. Separately, it also said that artillery was fired “to remove a threat”.

The fighting comes as the United States and France have been working towards a negotiated settlement. On Friday, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said Israel would not join a trilateral framework proposed by France.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies