Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah group warned Israel on Sunday against drilling at an offshore gas field, renewing a threat that it could escalate the offshore border demarcation dispute to a war.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran, aired a video on its Al-Manar television channel, showing drone footage of Israeli barges at the gas field and their coordinates. The video ends with footage of a rocket with the words “within range” in Arabic and Hebrew. The text on the video message opens with “Playing with time is useless,” also in both languages.
Israel and Lebanon, which do not have diplomatic relations, are in a years-long dispute over the demarcation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean.
The dispute escalated this summer after UK’s Energean, which has been awarded the right to drill at the offshore Karish field, arrived on the site with a rig, prompting an immediate reaction from Beirut. The Lebanese president and the caretaker prime minister of the country accused Israel of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Karish is the focus of the rift. According to Israel, Karish lies in its territorial waters. According to Lebanon, it falls within a triangle of contested waters because the two cannot agree where exactly the border passes.
Israel has already warned early on that any damage to the drilling rig in Karish—like attacks on any gas drilling rigs in its waters—will be construed as an attack on the state, implying there would be an immediate reaction.
The latest video threat from Hezbollah came as Amos Hochstein, U.S. Special Presidential Coordinator for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, traveled to Lebanon on Sunday.
Hochstein was set to “discuss sustainable solutions to Lebanon’s energy crisis, including the Biden Administration’s commitment to facilitating negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on the maritime boundary,” the U.S. Department of the State said. “Reaching a resolution is both necessary and possible, but can only be done through negotiations and diplomacy,” the State Department added.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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