Al Akhbar, a daily Lebanese tabloid format published in Beirut, on Thursday reported under the headline, “America and France threaten Lebanon: withdraw the resistance forces from the south,” that the Western powers are treating Lebanon as if Israel has already won the war in Gaza, and that Lebanon would be facing similar devastation as did Gaza if it fails to force Hezbollah to make concessions and move to positions north of the Litany River, in keeping with the 2006 UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The Litani River first gained its political and military importance in 1976, when then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin tried to enlist US support in establishing the river as the line north of which Lebanese and Syrian forces would be allowed, but their moving south of the river would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
In 1978, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon embarked on the first Lebanese War, dubbed “Peace for Galilee,” to push the PLO north of the Litani. Finally, under the 2006 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, Hezbollah agreed to disarm its forces south of the Litani River, but not to pull its forces out of southern Lebanon.
In 2023, very few Israeli residents of the northern border communities would agree to return home unless Hezbollah is driven, by peaceful means or otherwise, north of the Litani River.
According to Al Akhbar, the US and France put a gun on the Lebanese government’s table, telling it in no uncertain terms that the only force expected to be allowed from now on in the area between the Litani and the Israeli border is the Lebanese army and a reinforced UNIFIL force. If that doesn’t happen, there will be war.
The newspaper also described Saudi and Emirati involvement in domestic Lebanese affairs, including extending the tenure of Lebanon’s Army’s Chief of Staff Joseph Aoun.
Al Akhbar said the French showed broad support for Israel “that went beyond political support,” and they fully justified Israel’s war on Hamas. Speaking in terms their Lebanese counterparts could understand, the French said that the murder of 1,200 Israelis was equal to the murder of 16,000 French citizens, and had anyone dome that, France would have gone on a brutal and insane rampage to avenge its dead, no questions asked. According to the French representatives, if Hezbollah does not retreat behind the Litani, there’s no telling how Israel would respond, and rightfully so – seeing as more than 20,000 Israelis have been forced out of their homes near the Lebanese border following Hezbollah attacks.
Al Akhbar noted that Chief of Staff Aoun is the one Lebanese official the Western powers trust “to prevent Hezbollah from dragging Lebanon into a regional war and to adjust the realities on the ground in the south.”
In this context, the US and France openly warned the Lebanese that “the world, after what happened in Gaza, cannot allow anyone to threaten Israel or threaten global security,” and so, Lebanon must help find a mechanism that allows the implementation of the two resolutions, 1559 and 1701, and convince Hezbollah to follow suit.
Also, according to the Beirut newspaper, the US and France urged the Lebanese government to prepare to use other means if Hezbollah does not withdraw its forces north of the Litani River, including collaboration between the Lebanese army and UNIFIL to push Hezbollah back.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, adopted on 2 September 2004, supported free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon and called upon the remaining foreign forces to withdraw from the country.
Resolution 1701, adopted in 2006 at the end of the second Lebanese war, included a call for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon (meaning Hezbollah), and for no armed forces other than UNIFIL and the Lebanese army (meaning Hezbollah and the IDF) to be present south of the Litani River.