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Defense official: Israel not to get involved in Lebanon
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08:57, May 12, 2008

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Israel is closely watching developments in Lebanon, but will not get involved in the latest outbreak of violence there, a senior Israeli defense official said Sunday.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Army Radio that "we shouldn't get involved. We need to watch and should follow this very closely even when we are dealing with other fronts," referring to continued fighting against Hamas.

"We need to keep our eyes peeled and be especially sensitive regarding all that is happening (in Lebanon)," he added.

Vilnai also said that Israel was prepared for the possibility of the situation in Lebanon deteriorating into another civil war, adding that the current fighting could end with a Hezbollah takeover of the Lebanese government.

Israel is especially concerned about the situation in Lebanon in light of the Hamas's control of Gaza, Vilnai said, stressing Hamas and Hezbollah, as Iranian proxies, are mutually dependent.

Israeli Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven, who served as deputy head of the Northern Command during the Second Lebanon War in 2006,said Hezbollah's increasing strength stems from the conflict.

"I must say, as one who deeply participated in the Second Lebanon War, I feel sad, because if we then would have done what we needed to do and turned Hezbollah into a failed force, we would be in a different situation today," Ben-Reuven was also quoted by the army radio as saying.

The Lebanese violence that has killed at least 38 people in four days was sparked when the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Seniora tried to crack down on Hezbollah last week, local daily Jerusalem Post reported.

Hezbollah, a Shi'ite guerrilla group backed by Iran, responded by seizing control of many Beirut neighborhoods loyal to the Lebanese government, the paper said.


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