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US and Europe warn Lebanon’s Hezbollah to ease strikes on Israel and back off from wider Mideast war

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S., European and Arab mediators are pressing to keep stepped-up cross-border attacks between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants from spiraling into a wider Middle East war that the world has feared for months.

Hopes are lagging for a cease-fire anytime soon in Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza that would calm attacks by Hezbollah and other Iranian-allied militias. With that in mind, American and European officials are delivering warnings to Hezbollah, which is far stronger than Hamas but seen as overconfident, about taking on the military might of Israel, current and former diplomats say.

They are warning that the group should not count on the United States or anyone else being able to hold off Israeli leaders if they decide to execute battle-ready plans for an offensive into Lebanon. And Hezbollah should not count on its fighters’ ability to handle whatever would come next.

On both sides of the Lebanese border, escalating strikes between Israel and Hezbollah, one of the region’s best-armed fighting forces, appeared at least to level off this past week. While daily strikes still pound the border area, the slight shift offered hope of easing immediate fears, which had prompted the U.S. to send an amphibious assault ship with a Marine expeditionary force to join other warships in the area in hopes of deterring a wider conflict.

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