The Hezbollah terror organization has in recent days issued pamphlets and a video, threatening Israel’s offshore gas platforms with attack, as rhetoric escalates on both sides over ownership of lucrative gas fields.
“Whoever abuses oil and gas sites in Lebanon’s economic waters — their sites will be abused,” one pamphlet obtained by the Ynet new site read in broken Hebrew. “They know Lebanon can do this.”
A clip set to dramatic music quoted Defense Minister Avgidor Liberman claiming ownership over the gas sites, then cut to contradictory claims by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, followed by footage of missiles ostensibly being launched at Israeli gas platforms.
Last week Lebanon issued an offshore oil and gas exploration tender on the country’s maritime border, prompting a war of words with Israel, which has laid claim to one of the fields in question.
Liberman called the move “very provocative” and suggested that Lebanon had put out a tender to international groups for a gas field “that is by all accounts ours.”
His comments drew sharp condemnation from Hezbollah and Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who described the statement as a “blatant provocation that Lebanon rejects.”
Lebanese officials say the country will start exploratory offshore drilling in 2019 and say Lebanon wants to assert its resource rights along the length of its maritime territories.
A major find in Lebanon’s southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year.
There are over 300 square miles of waters claimed by both countries, which are technically in a state of conflict. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.
As Israel’s gas fields and shipping lanes grow more and more important, the country’s navy is investing considerable funds and resources to defend offshore interests from Lebanese threats.
Naval officials have said both Hezbollah and Hamas are believed to be developing naval capabilities, including autonomous submersibles, suicide drones and scuba-diving commando units.
Tensions with Lebanon have also escalated over Israel’s construction of a border wall with Lebanon and its warnings that Iran, through Hezbollah, is turning the country into a forward base against the Jewish state.
Jerusalem has said the barrier is being constructed inside Israeli territory, an assertion Beirut disputes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday toured the Golan Heights and warned Israel’s enemies across the border “not to test us.”
AP contributed to this report