Lebanon PM tells AFP working to avoid ‘war’ with Israel

Lebanon PM tells AFP working to avoid ‘war’ with Israel

BEIRUT (AFP): Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said Monday he was working to ensure his country does not enter the Hamas-Israel war, even as Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging cross-border fire.

Najib Mikati said he feared an escalation, with the border skirmishes stoking concerns that Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah could launch its own war with Israel.

“I am doing my duty to prevent Lebanon from entering the war” raging further south, Mikati told AFP in an interview.

Cash-strapped Lebanon is facing the possibility of war essentially leaderless, as political divisions have left the country without a president for almost a year, while Mikati has headed a caretaker cabinet for about a year and a half.

“Lebanon is in the eye of the storm,” Mikati said.

“I cannot rule out an escalation because there is a race to reach a ceasefire before escalation spreads in the entire region.”

Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon have exchanged fire with Israel almost daily since Hamas’s October 7 assault on Israel.

Iran-backed or affiliated groups have also launched attacks on Israel from Syria, and targeted US forces stationed in Syria and Iraq.