BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's top Christian cleric urged state officials on Monday to shield Lebanon from the war between Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Israel, as the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah clashes with Israeli forces at the border.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces across the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since the Hamas-Israel war began on Oct. 7, in the worst fighting there since Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006.
Long a critic of the heavily armed Hezbollah, Maronite Christian Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai called for the application of a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution which ended the 2006 war, noting it ordered the sides to cease fire.
He called on Lebanese state officials to work to keep Lebanon away "from the scourge of this war ... and to carry out its political and diplomatic role in support of the Palestinian cause. That is more effective," he said.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in his first speech since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, said on Friday escalation on the Lebanon front would hinge on events in Gaza and Israeli actions towards Lebanon.
Hezbollah's opponents in Lebanon have long accused the group of undermining the state through its possession of an arsenal that outguns the national army, and accuse it of monopolising decisions of war and peace. Hezbollah's supporters say its arsenal has defended Lebanon from Israel.
(Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Mark Heinrich)