US defense chief warned Gallant about Israeli military actions in Lebanon: Report

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned his Israeli counterpart Yaov Gallant about Israel’s role in escalating tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon, Axios reported on Monday.

“Austin’s message to Gallant reflected growing anxiety in the White House that Israeli military action in Lebanon is exacerbating tensions along the border, which could lead to a regional war,” Axios reported citing Israeli and US sources briefed on the call between the two.

The report stated: “Some in the Biden administration are concerned Israel is trying to provoke Hezbollah and create a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw the US and other countries further into the conflict.” Israeli officials categorically deny this.

Tensions continue to grow north of the Israeli border, with attacks by Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah launching regular attacks targeting Israeli sites and the Israeli military returning fire.

Gallant warned on Saturday that as Hezbollah continued to carry out attacks on northern Israel, the militia was “close to making a grave mistake” that will not end well for Beirut residents.

“Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a war that may happen, and it is making mistakes. If it makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon. What we are doing in Gaza we know how to do in Beirut,” Gallant said as cited by the Times of Israel.

The Axios report cited a US source as saying that the White House asked Austin to express concern to Gallant about escalating Israeli military action in Lebanon.

“It was a very direct and frank conversation and Austin specifically mentioned concerns about Israeli military action in Lebanon,” the report said, adding that “Austin asked Gallant for clarification about Israeli air strikes in Lebanon and asked that Israel avoids steps that could lead to an all out war between Israel and Hezbollah.”

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