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Jan 12, 2024, 2:00am EST
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Semafor Signals

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Lebanon risks spiraling into deeper crisis as war in Gaza rages on

Insights from Gallup, the Financial Times, and Human Rights Watch

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REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
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The News

The White House has urged Israel and Lebanon to find a “diplomatic solution” to calm escalating hostilities on their shared border, amid fears a rise in clashes between Israeli armed forces and the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah could lead to a greater regional conflict.

On a visit to Beirut aimed at easing tensions between Israel and Lebanon, White House adviser Amos Hochstein told reporters he believed “both sides” prefer a diplomatic solution to end the border hostilities that have seen tens of thousands of Israeli and Lebanese citizens forced from their homes.

After Israel assassinated a top Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon earlier this week, Hezbollah retaliated with an attack on an Israeli army base — while continuing to say it did not want a full-scale war.

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Faith in Lebanon’s government and financial institutions is already at rock bottom

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Source:  
Gallup

Lebanon could risk further economic and political destabilization if conflict spills deeper into its borders. After Beirut failed to deliver on structural reform and defaulted on its foreign debt in 2018, confidence in the nation’s government and state institutions plummeted. Drawing from data gathered last September, a month before conflict erupted in Gaza, Gallup reported that only 3% of the country’s population expressed faith in their financial institutions and banks. Gallup found that the financial pressure on households had also reached new heights –– with 64% of the population saying that getting by on their present income was “very difficult.” Public healthcare and education institutions also continue to falter, the research firm found, with its survey suggesting that the only hope that Lebanese retain is with the country’s military.

The Gaza war reminds Lebanon’s Palestinians of a painful past

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Sources:  
Financial Times, Human Rights Watch

Watching the Israel-Hamas war unfold from across the border has been especially distressing for Lebanon’s estimated 250,000 Palestinians, most of whom are still stateless and retain close ties to Gaza, The Financial Times reported. The oldest among them fled mandate-era Palestine 75 years ago, and watching Gazans make the exodus to the south of the war-torn enclave has evoked painful memories. Almost 1.9 million Gazans have been internally displaced, according to Human Rights Watch. “They are all walking towards an unknown fate, just like we did,” one elderly resident who lives in the Shatila refugee camp in southern Lebanon told the FT. “This is like the Nakba, all over again.”

Israel may find itself spread too thin if it chooses war with Lebanon

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Reuters

The Biden administration has warned Israel against escalating a conflict with Lebanon, The Washington Post reported citing intelligence that showed Israeli armed forces would struggle to win in a conflict against their Lebanese counterparts with their military assets and resources spread too thin. Though U.S. officials have consistently dissuaded Israel from launching a preemptive attack on Hezbollah, they fear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees war in Lebanon as key to his political survival, as the leader continues to face criticism for failing to prevent Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Israel, however, has publicly said that it is giving diplomacy a chance in the hope that Hezbollah will retreat from the countries’ shared border, Reuters reported.

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