Lebanon's foreign minister 'less pessimistic' about Israel-Hamas war spreading

The Lebanese foreign minister has told Sky News that discussions with Hezbollah and its Iranian funders have left him "less pessimistic" about the outbreak of a wider war in the Middle East region.

"No one wants war," Abdallah BouHabib told us from his office in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

"And I don't think there will be a war soon in Lebanon - and I think you know even the Iranians and Hezbollah are not assuring us, but saying this in an indirect way.

"When the Iranian foreign minister asks about what's happening to a ceasefire, that means they don't want war."

Live updates - Hamas armed wing in Lebanon 'fires rockets at Israel'

But he went on to say the onus was on the Americans to try to halt the Israeli onslaught on Gaza - and press for a ceasefire - as soon as possible.

"The only country in the world that can make peace in this region is America," the caretaker foreign minister said.

"Let's not fool ourselves. Both their enemies and their friends agree, America is the only one that can negotiate with others... so this is their role and it should be their role."

His words took on extra urgency as the Hamas military wing based in Lebanon announced it had fired as many as thirty rockets 40km inside Israel from its positions on the southern border and declared Hamas would continue to rule Gaza.

And in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiye in Beirut, thousands gathered to mourn the death of the latest fighter killed on the southern border.

"Hezbollah! Hezbollah!" they chanted as they carried his coffin, as well as shouting their allegiance to the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah is funded by Iran - like Hamas.

But Hezbollah is viewed as much more militarily sophisticated and has been long feared for its military might.

It was founded in the late 1980s by Iran's Revolutionary Guard to fight Israel's invasion in Lebanon at the time and calls for the "liberation of all Palestinian lands".

It is designated a terrorist organisation by America and Britain, as well as multiple other countries.

And there's been an underlying growing concern that the Israeli onslaught of Gaza - in response to the Hamas attack inside Israel on 7 October - could spill over and provoke a much wider regional, or even larger, conflict.

But more than 50 Hezbollah fighters have been killed since the Hamas massacres in Israel, as Hezbollah and Israel trade rocket fire and almost daily strikes on the southern border.

And as the deaths rise, emotions and the desire for revenge does too.

Mourners crowded around the coffin of fighter Qassem Ibrahim Abu Taam, a young father with children, and both men and women wept openly.

In this charged atmosphere, the rhetoric from the committed Hezbollah politicians and spokespeople doesn't appear to be dialling down.

"The genocide that's taking place in Gaza is aching every human soul everywhere, regardless of the ethnicity. It's a matter for humanity," Ibrahim Mousawi, Hezbollah MP and spokesperson, told us.

"It's either that we have a religion, we have morality, we have humanity - or not. That's why I tell you, we are ready, we are ready for any kind of sacrifices," the Birmingham University graduate went on.

"We are behind the cause and behind the righteous people and we will continue to struggle no matter what… and we are not being threatened by the American fleets (stationed off the coast of Gaza) and not by the Israelis.

"We are ready to sacrifice (ourselves)."

The temperature has risen in Lebanon since the Israelis admitted hitting a car on Sunday night on the road between Aainata and Aitaroun, about two miles from the border with Israel.

The IDF said it was attacked because they believed the vehicle was transporting terrorists - but the attack killed three little girls and their grandmother - relatives of journalist Sami Ayoub.

He told fellow journalists: "Where are the terrorists? The Israelis are the terrorists and those who support them are too. America is the mother of all terrorism."

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addressed his followers - nearly a month into the Israeli offensive inside Gaza - last Friday.

In a nationwide broadcast from a secret location, he appeared to tread a masterful path between reassuring his supporters he did not fear taking on America and Israel, whilst also pulling back from declaring full-on war.

Instead he vowed any Lebanese civilians killed would provoke retaliation from Hezbollah.

His underlying message appeared to be reinforced by the Lebanese foreign minister.

He told Sky News there was horror and dismay at the prospect of a war involving his country - already struggling with a crippling economic crisis and years of political instability.

But he insisted all Arab leaders in the region were urging America to press the Israelis into agreeing a ceasefire and begin talks at the earliest opportunity to work towards a two-state solution.

"They will never get rid of Hamas," Mr BouHabib said.

"Look at the way Gaza people were living... If it continues and it's getting worse now... there will be more extremists, more Hamas, and Hamas will be stronger."