'Enough war in Lebanon': Mikati says 'time is of essence' to stop war from spreading

After visiting Qatar, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati will continue a tour of other Arab countries, as he works to ensure Lebanon does not enter the Hamas-Israel war.

Mikati said Wednesday that time is of the essence in stopping the Hamas-Israel war from “going out of control” and affecting Lebanon and the wider region.

The PM has been scrambling with international governments to keep Lebanon away from the war, as militants from Hezbollah and Israeli troops have been clashing along the tense Lebanon-Israel border since the onset of the war on Oct. 7. The clashes so far have mostly been limited to areas along the border.

His comments come days before Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to give his first speech since the start of the war. Lebanon is experiencing political paralysis and economic turmoil, leaving many worried of the consequences of a fully fledged war in the crisis-hit country.

Mikati condemned both Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon and attacks in the blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip.

“A humanitarian cease-fire for five days is necessary, where there can be active international talks to secure prisoner swaps and reach a permanent truce in order to reach an agreement on the conditions for regional peace,” Mikati said before a government meeting.

He condmened the silence of the international community over Israel's crimes in Gaza and over its aggression against Lebanon.

"The Israeli aggression against the south affects the nation as a whole," Mikati said, calling for national solidarity and dialogue.

"Our duty is to meet, to talk, and to think together in order to reach a unified national solution," he said.

Mikati had said Monday that he is doing his best to ensure the state, with its "humble means", would be able to respond in case of war, although he is also working to ensure his country does not join the fray.

“Enough war in Lebanon, for we are with the choice of peace,” Mikati said, adding that the decision of war today is in the hands of Israel.

Since Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, Israel has exchanged cross-border fire with Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon's south, stoking fears of a regional spillover.

Nearly 29,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon due to the clashes, and more than 62 people have been killed. 48 of them are Hezbollah fighters, the others are members of the Resistance Brigades and Palestinian factions, and four civilians, including Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah.

After an Oct. 16 Israeli strike in the town of Dhayra, houses and cars caught fire and nine civilians were rushed to the hospital with breathing problems from the fumes. The human rights group Amnesty International said it had verified photos that showed that Israel had dropped white phosphorus shells. The organization said it verified three other instances of Israel's military dropping white phosphorus on Lebanese border areas in the past month, but did not document any harm to civilians in those cases. The shelling caused wildfires near the border, an area of trees and olive groves.

Human rights advocates say the use of white phosphorus is illegal under international law when the white-hot chemical substance is fired into populated areas. It can set buildings on fire and burn human flesh down to the bone. Survivors are at risk of infections and organ or respiratory failure, even if their burns are small.

Source: Naharnet, Associated Press

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