Israel defence head to discuss Gaza, Lebanon on US trip

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant is heading to Washington to discuss the next phase of the Gaza war and escalating hostilities on the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire with Hezbollah have stoked fears of wider conflict.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel since the Gaza war erupted more than eight months ago.

The group has said it will not stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.

"We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in more areas," Gallant said in a statement on Sunday before setting off to Washington, where he said he would meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Houthi fighters
Escalating hostilities on Israel's border with Lebanon have stoked fears of wider conflict. (AP PHOTO)

Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.

US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon last week in an attempt to cool tensions amid an uptick in cross-border fire and an escalation in rhetoric on both sides.

Some Israeli officials have linked the ongoing Israeli push into Rafah, the southern area of Gaza where it says it is targeting the last battalions of militant Islamist group Hamas, to a potential focus on Lebanon.

Gallant appeared to make the same link in his statement.

"The transition to Phase C in Gaza is of great importance," Gallant said.

"I will discuss this transition with US officials - how it may enable additional things - and I know that we will achieve close co-operation with the US on this issue as well."

Scaling back Gaza operations would free up forces to take on Hezbollah, were Israel to launch a ground offensive or step up its aerial bombardments.

Officials have described the third and last phase of Israel's Gaza offensive as winding down fighting while stepping up efforts to stabilise a post-Hamas rule and begin reconstruction in the enclave, much of which has been laid to waste.

Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, has sparred with the premier in the past few months, calling for a clearer post-war plan for Gaza that will not leave Israel in charge, a demand echoed by the White House.

Netanyahu has been walking a tightrope as he seeks to keep his government together by balancing the demands of the defence establishment, including ex-generals such as Gallant, and far-right coalition partners who have resisted any post-Gaza strategy that could open the way to a future Palestinian state.

Israel's ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left almost the entire population of the enclave homeless and destitute.