Israel relayed a message of de-escalation to Lebanon through U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to Lebanese media reports.
The message comes in the wake of a reported Israeli drone strike on Hezbollah assets in Beirut and bombing of a base belonging to a Hezbollah-affiliated Palestinian terrorist group in Lebanon on Sunday. Israel also struck Iranian assets in Syria overnight Saturday, killing at least two Hezbollah operatives.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun denounced the attacks as “a declaration of war” and raised the issue with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Ján Kubiš, his office said.
Lebanese daily al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday that Pompeo had informed the Lebanese government Israel had not “changed the rules of the game” in the region, explaining that the strike in Syria “was necessary to prevent a planned Iranian attack [on Israel].”
The political wing of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group wields considerable power in Lebanon, and Aoun is among its most staunch supporters.
As for the incident in the Lebanese capital, Pompeo reportedly explained that that had not been an offensive operation but rather an intelligence-gathering one, and that when one drone malfunctioned, a second was sent to destroy it.
According to the report, Pompeo did, however, make it clear to the Lebanese that if Hezbollah retaliates against Israel, the latter will mount a forceful response that will not distinguish between Lebanon and Hezbollah.
Pompeo also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. According to a U.S. State Department statement, “The secretary expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against threats posed by the Iranian [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard Corps and to take action to prevent imminent attacks against Israeli assets in the region.
“The secretary and the prime minister discussed how Iran is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors. The prime minister noted that Israel would strike IRGC targets threatening Israel, wherever they are located.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.