Lebanon must be kept out of the Hamas-Israel war, says the patriarch

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s top Christian cleric on Monday urged state officials to protect Lebanon from the war between the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Israel, as the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah clashes with Israeli forces on the border.

Since the start of the Hamas-Israel war on October 7, Iran-backed Hezbollah has been engaged in firefights with Israeli forces across the Lebanese-Israeli border. There is the worst fighting there since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Maronite Christian Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, a long-time critic of the heavily armed Hezbollah, called for the implementation of a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war, noting that it ordered both sides to stop the fire.

He called on Lebanese officials to work to keep Lebanon “away from the scourge of this war… and to fulfill its political and diplomatic role in support of the Palestinian cause.” “That would be more effective,” he said.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday in his first speech since the start of the Israel-Hamas war that the escalation on the Lebanon front would depend on events in Gaza and Israeli actions towards Lebanon.

Hezbollah opponents in Lebanon have long accused the group of weakening the state by possessing an arsenal that exceeds the national army and accuse it of monopolizing decisions on war and peace. Hezbollah supporters say its arsenal defended Lebanon from Israel.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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