Lebanon's Escalating Challenges: Israeli Attacks on Army, Hezbollah Confrontations, and French Diplomacy

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2023-12-09 | 00:45
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Lebanon's Escalating Challenges: Israeli Attacks on Army, Hezbollah Confrontations, and French Diplomacy
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6min
Lebanon's Escalating Challenges: Israeli Attacks on Army, Hezbollah Confrontations, and French Diplomacy

The unprecedented Israeli targeting of the army in several areas along the southern borders serves as an example of the escalating situation on that front. Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues its confrontations in the south, mourning three members simultaneously with the fall of four of its members in Syria.
Alongside the field developments, diplomatic sources revealed to "Nidaa al-Watan" information that the Gaza war has relatively modified the agenda of French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian during his recent visit to Beirut. 
 
This compelled him to address the issue of extending the term of Army Commander General Joseph Aoun to ensure the stability of the military institution in light of the challenges facing Lebanon in the upcoming phase, linked to the pressures for the implementation of Resolution 1701.
Le Drian, speaking on behalf of the Quint Committee, emphasized the need for a quick resolution of the presidential election in Lebanon. The upcoming period is filled with significant challenges that require Lebanon to be prepared through its presidential institutions, with a focus on the presidency and an effective government.
The sources confirm that Le Drian, who spoke on behalf of the Quint Committee, informed the Lebanese of the necessity to expedite the presidential process quickly so that Lebanon can come to the negotiating table, where Resolution 1701 is one of the topics, rather than being a subject of negotiation.
The sources reveal that Le Drian's upcoming visit in January will revolve around a set of criteria presented to the political forces to shape the identity of the future president, as outlined in the latest Quint statement, constituting its constitution. The French envoy, despite not expanding on the discussion regarding the presidency, was clear and explicit in affirming to Lebanese officials that the chances of the candidates from the session of June 4th, namely head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil and former minister Jihad Azour, are over. Alternative options need to be explored.
The sources indicate that there is a common conviction within the Quint Committee that the Lebanese presidential process must emerge from internal consensus. In other words, the candidate elected as president must have the approval of the major political forces, or at least not be rejected by any of them. Therefore, the chances of any candidate facing resistance from any team, whether Christian or non-Christian, automatically decrease.
Diplomatic sources believe that the serious discussion is focusing on new names that are acceptable to all parties, making the chances of the Army Commander linked to the rejection of Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil and the reservations of Hezbollah. Therefore, the next round may involve searching for a fourth candidate.
In summary, according to diplomatic data, there are two inevitable losers in this process: Deputy Bassil, whose objection to the extension of General Joseph Aoun's term will diminish his chances in the presidential race in favor of the "fourth option." However, his remaining at the head of the military institution for six critical months will be a significant moral compensation. As for the second loser, it is Frangieh, who was the only card for the opposition in the presidential race and will exit with empty hands. The withdrawal of Azour from the race will be a light burden for the opposition, which is experiencing difficulties in conveying its message and has a wide range of options.
Simultaneously with discussions about Le Drian, a third French delegation arrived in Lebanon to continue discussions on the situation on the southern borders and the implementation of Resolution 1701. 
Before meeting with Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the delegation held talks with Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib. The delegation included the Director-General for Political and Security Affairs in the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs Frédéric Mondoloni and the Director-General for International and Strategic Relations in the French Ministry of Defense Alice Rufo. 
According to information made available to "Nidaa al-Watan," the situation in the south took precedence in the talks, and the French delegation that visited the south emphasized the importance of controlling the borders with Israel. They expressed concern about the escalation and discussed ways for Lebanon to implement the resolution.
The conversation touched on the presence of Hezbollah members and the fear that "Al-Ridwan" forces affiliated with it might cross the borders, carrying out operations similar to those carried out by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7th of last year. The delegation told the foreign minister, "What we ask for is the implementation of international Resolution 1701 to restore calm to the borders," without addressing the demand for a buffer zone.
According to sources, the delegation did not speak in a threatening or intimidating language but opened a discussion expressing concerns about the development of confrontations in the south and the means to ensure the resolution's implementation by Lebanon. 
Bou Habib responded that the solution to the border region and the implementation of Resolution 1701 depends on stopping Israeli violations, defining the borders between Lebanon and Israel, and assisting in strengthening the army to enable it to take control of the area. Only then can discussions about stopping any security actions take place, and at that point, Hezbollah can be engaged in halting its activities.
Diplomatic sources do not rule out the possibility of French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna visiting Lebanon next week to continue discussions on this matter.

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