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Hezbollah warns Israel: ‘Any arm’ trying to steal Lebanon’s wealth ‘will be cut off’

Nasrallah’s remarks come amid intensified US efforts to resolve an ongoing maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel; speech made during the Shiite holy day of Ashura

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hands, during the Shiite holy day of Ashura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hands, during the Shiite holy day of Ashura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group issued a warning Tuesday to Israel over the two countries’ maritime border dispute, saying that “any arm” that reaches to steal Lebanon’s wealth “will be cut off.”

Hassan Nasrallah’s remarks came amid intensified US efforts to resolve a more than a decade-old maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon, which have officially been at war since Israel’s creation in 1948.

Both countries claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon also claims that the Karish gas field is in disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations, while Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the US State Department who has been mediating in the dispute, met with top Lebanese officials last week. After the talks, he said the two countries are getting closer to reaching a deal in the dispute.

Hochstein was later reported to have visited Israel and is expected back in Beirut in the coming weeks with Israeli responses to Lebanese requests.

Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies that fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Israel considers the Iran-backed Shiite group its most serious immediate threat, estimating that Hezbollah has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.

Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel; Energean’s floating rig arrived at the Karish field in June 2022 (Energean / Suez Canal Authority / AFP)

In his speech during a rally south of Beirut, attended by tens of thousands to mark Ashura, Nasrallah said Lebanon “should be ready for all possibilities.”

“We will not tolerate the idea that our wealth be stolen,” Nasrallah said, repeating similar threats he made last month during a televised speech marking 16 years since the Second Lebanon War.

Ashura is one of the most important days on the Shiite religious calendar, commemorating the 7th-century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.

Lebanon badly needs an agreement over the maritime border in the Mediterranean as it hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves to try and alleviate what has become the worst economic crisis in its modern history.

Last month, the Israeli military shot down three unarmed Hezbollah drones flying over the Karish field. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the time criticized Hezbollah, saying the move could pose risks to the country. Hezbollah later aired drone footage showing Israeli ships in the area.

“Don’t make mistakes with Lebanon nor with the people of Lebanon,” Nasrallah said. “Any arm that tries to reach for any of this (Lebanese) wealth will be cut off.”

A Shiite Lebanese supporter of Iranian-backed Hezbollah group holds a portrait of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah with Arabic that reads: “Our Leader,” during the Shiite holy day of Ashoura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Nasrallah also warned Israel not to target any Palestinian officials in Lebanon amid a ceasefire that ended three days of deadly fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad group, along with the much larger Hamas that runs Gaza, is a Hezbollah ally.

Earlier this month, Israeli security officials warned the country’s political echelon that a failure to reach an agreement in the maritime border dispute with Lebanon will potentially mean being dragged into a military conflict with Hezbollah.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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