(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant urged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support the country in its conflict with Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon, saying the world is watching for signs of strain in the relationship between the two allies.  

Israel’s military said last week that operational planning for an offensive in Lebanon has been approved, after months of cross-border fire between the two sides started to escalate. The US has been striving to prevent a full-blown war with the Iran-backed militant group, which would open a second front to the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. 

During a meeting with Blinken in Washington, Gallant “emphasized the importance of the U.S. standing with Israel in this mission, and its impact on the actions taken by Hezbollah and Iran,” according to a statement from his office on Tuesday.

“The eyes of both our enemies and our friends are on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Gallant said. “We must resolve the differences between us quickly and stand together – this is how we will achieve our goals and weaken our enemies.”

The meeting took place days after US envoy Amos Hochstein made the most recent of several trips to the Middle East to ease tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, which like Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Washington. The US-Israel relationship has similarly shown signs of strain over the near nine-month long Gaza war, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing his ally of withholding weapons.

The White House has denied that arms have been held back, and a State Department account of the Blinken-Gallant encounter did not mention the dispute. 

A top US military official warned Sunday that — even if it gave full support — Washington may not be able to assist Israel against Hezbollah to the same extent as when it helped intercept missiles launched directly from Iran in April.

It would be harder to fend off the shorter-range rockets favored by the group, Charles Brown, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in comments reported by Associated Press. Such a conflict would also risk drawing a fresh response from Tehran, he added. 

Netanyahu said Monday that the most intense phase of fighting in Gaza would soon be over, though emphasized that the goal of eradicating Hamas has a governing and military entity remains the top priority. He added that he’s also committed to ensuring the return of hostages still held in the enclave since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks that triggered the war.

Blinken, the department said, discussed efforts to free the abductees and urged Gallant “to take additional steps to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza and deliver assistance throughout Gaza in full coordination with the United Nations.” 

The secretary “also underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes.”   

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Gallant was also expected to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

About 1,200 people were killed in Israel during the Oct. 7 attacks. Some 37,000 people have died in the ensuing war, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. 

Much of Gaza has been left in ruins by the conflict and and the enclave’s population of more than 2 million people are battling shortages of food, water and health care, according to the United Nations.

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