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Lapid holds security talks to prepare for gas extraction from disputed Karish field

Prime minister, Defense Minister Gantz convene meeting to discuss status, security of facilities under threat from Hezbollah, ahead of possible start of operations

An Israeli Sa'ar Class 4.5 missile boat guards the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
An Israeli Sa'ar Class 4.5 missile boat guards the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, in footage published by the military on July 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid discussed preparations for producing gas at the Karish gas field off the Mediterranean coast during a security briefing Sunday.

Contentious and fragile US-brokered negotiations on rights to the offshore drilling area, the subject of long-running negotiations with Lebanon and repeated threats from the Hezbollah terror group, have appeared to make progress in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, other high-level security officials and energy professionals attended the briefing with Lapid.

The discussion focused on operations surrounding Karish’s status during the upcoming holiday period and defenses against Hezbollah attacks once gas production begins, according to Hebrew-language news reports.

A meeting of the high-level security cabinet is expected as early as next week to approve an agreement with Lebanon over the disputed gas field, Channel 13 news reported.

The maritime dispute relates to some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon claims that the Karish gas field is in disputed territory, while Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.

Earlier this month, the Energy Ministry announced that it was set to conduct tests on the disputed maritime field, ahead of plans to connect it to Israel’s gas network.

In response, Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned that Hezbollah missiles were “locked on” Karish.

Also this month, Lapid’s office promised Israel would go ahead and extract gas from Karish with or without a deal on the maritime border with Lebanon. Those comments came hours after Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that indirect talks with Israel to end a maritime border dispute are in their “final stages.”

Energean’s floating production system (FPSO) at the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. (Energean)

A spokesperson for Lapid issued a statement later that day saying: “Israel believes that it is both possible and necessary to reach an agreement on a maritime line between Lebanon and Israel, in a manner that will serve the interests of the citizens of both countries.”

Gantz said Wednesday that Iran was attempting to “buy” Lebanon by having it rely on the Hezbollah terror group for fuel and repairing the country’s failing power network.

“Iran, through Hezbollah, is trying to buy Lebanon by supplying fuel, repairing the electricity system and building power plants,” Gantz said.

The Karish field was also the subject of an election campaign spat this week, when Lapid censured his rival, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, after the former prime minister said Lapid had caved in to Hezbollah. Lapid called Netanyahu’s comments “terribly irresponsible.”

A Lebanese activist holds a placard in Arabic that reads “Thank you from the heart to the weapons of the resistance, protectors of the oil,” as Lebanese soldiers stand guard during a protest in the southern border town of Naqoura, Lebanon, Saturday, June 11, 2022. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

For more than two years, Lebanon has been facing a crippling economic, political and energy crisis that has left citizens without basic necessities and created a vacuum for the Hezbollah terror group to take further hold in the nation.

The Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sunday, kicking off several weeks that will see several major holidays in quick succession.

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