US very concerned about escalation on Israel-Lebanon border

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy (Reuters) - The United States is very concerned that hostilities on the Israel-Lebanon border could escalate to a full-out war, a senior U.S. official said, saying that specific security arrangements are needed for the area and a ceasefire in Gaza is not enough.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have been trading fire since the eruption of the Gaza war in October in steadily intensifying attacks that have fueled concern of a bigger confrontation.

"We have had consistent and urgent conversations at different times with Israel and Lebanon over the eight months, from the very beginning of this crisis ... to keep this from developing into a full-out war that could have implications to beyond elsewhere in the region," the official said.

"Returning to the status quo to Oct. 6 in Lebanon is not an acceptable or viable option."

On Wednesday, Hezbollah fired the most rockets it has launched at Israel in a single day since cross-border hostilities broke out eight months ago, as part of its retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed a senior Hezbollah field commander.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Doha on Wednesday that the best way to empower a diplomatic solution in the north of Israel is a resolution of the conflict in Gaza in the south.

"That will take a tremendous amount of pressure out of the system," he said. "It will take away a justification that Hezbollah has claimed for the attacks its engaged in, and I think open a pathway to actually resolve this diplomatically."

However, the U.S. official said more will be needed.

"It is not enough to just have a ceasefire...there has to be an agreement that allows Israelis to return to their homes in the north," the official said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Toby Chopra and Angus MacSwan)