Israel ‘prepared’ for Hezbollah attempt to derail Lebanon offshore gas deal

Israel’s Defence Minister has confirmed that the IDF is ready to respond a potential attack on disputed gas fields


Flag of Hezbollah in Baalbek, Lebanon

Israel’s Defence Minister has confirmed that the IDF is “prepared” for a potential Hezbollah attack on Israeli gas fields.

Benny Gantz's comments follow reports the militia could launch an attack in a bid to sabotage Israel-Lebanon maritime talks after suggestions the parties are nearing a breakthrough. 

Jerusalem and Beirut have been embroiled in US-mediated talks over maritime gas exploration for over a year.

It has been claimed that the governments may soon announce a compromise over the Karish field which Lebanon claims sovereignty. Israel says the area, estimated to be home to 1.75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, is within its exclusive economic zone.

Chief of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Islamist militia Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has escalated rhetoric as reports suggest Lebanon and its southern neighbour could be close to a breakthrough.

“The new equation is, Karish, what’s beyond Karish, and what’s beyond, beyond Karish,” Nasrallah remarked in July, according to the Lebanese news site Naharnet.

“We’re following up on all gas fields across Palestine. If you don’t allow firms to extract gas, we’ll flip the table on the entire world. Going to war would be more honourable if the other choice is for the Lebanese to starve,” he continued.

The same month the Lebanese cleric told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen broadcaster: “If the extraction of oil and gas from Karish begins in September before Lebanon obtains its right, we would be heading to a ‘problem,’ and we’ll do anything to achieve our objective.”

Israel's Channel 12 had alleged that government officials fear Hezbollah could stage an attack before the announcement of a deal, in order to gain credit for any Israeli concessions.

Quizzed earlier today over whether a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli gas field could trigger war, Defence Minister Benny Gantz told Israel’s 103 FM radio station: “Yes, that could trigger a reaction, leading to several days of fighting and to a military campaign. We are strong and prepared for this scenario, but we don’t want it.”

Fuel and food shortages kickstarted the country’s economic crisis in 2019, following decades of financial mismanagement culminating in widespread protests. The crisis has since been exacerbated by Covid-19 and the 2020 Beirut port explosion.

Almost half (46 per cent) of Lebanese households are currently deemed food insecure. The World Bank has blamed the small, densely populated state’s elites for conducting “deliberately harmful” fiscal policies it says amount to one of the three most severe economic crises since the 19th century.

Last month the IDF intercepted three unmanned aerial vehicles travelling toward the Karish field.

On 1 August the US’ senior adviser for Energy Security Amos Hochstein arrived in Jerusalem following his reported presentation of an updated draft deal to officials in Beirut. His unscheduled arrival followed mere days after Israeli officials claimed the talks were reaching “the verge of a solution.”

The US-led negotiations had previously failed to make headway, with Lebanon maintaining its claim over the disputed maritime zone covering the “Line 23” boundary south of “Line 29.” This area would add around 1,400 square kilometres to its claim, including a chunk of the Karish field. 

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