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PM flies over Israeli gas field claimed by Lebanon amid Hezbollah threats

Lapid emphasizes economic potential, but says negotiations should conclude for Beirut to also enjoy resource

Prime Minister Yair Lapid flies over the Karish gas field on July 19, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid flies over the Karish gas field on July 19, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday flew over the Karish gas field, where he was given a professional overview of the platform, amid fears of an escalation with the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Lapid boasted of the potential of Israel’s gas reserves to ease the current global energy crisis and noted that Lebanon too could benefit upon the successful completion of negotiations between the two countries over their maritime dispute.

“The new rig is the future of energy in the State of Israel and an economic opportunity that includes the export of gas to Egypt and Europe, which every Israeli will earn from in the not too distant future,” the premier said.

Hezbollah has recently escalated its rhetoric and actions over the border dispute after Israel moved a natural gas drilling vessel into its Karish field, which Lebanon claims is a disputed area. In its boldest move, Hezbollah sent four drones toward the Karish platform some three weeks ago, all of which were intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces.

Last week the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned that drones sent to the Karish field were “only the beginning,” and that his group would go to war over the field.

Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a stern warning to Hezbollah on Tuesday, a day after the terror group allegedly flew another small drone over the border with Israel.

“Israel is prepared and ready to act against any threat. We are not heading into a confrontation, but anyone who tries to harm our sovereignty or the citizens of Israel will very quickly find out that he has made a serious mistake,” Lapid said during a tour of the military’s Northern Command and the Lebanese border.

Gantz said Israel was “ready to do a lot so that its neighbors will prosper, and is ready to act all the time to protect its citizens.”

“If they choose the path of stability, they will help the citizens of Lebanon,” he added.

Israel is currently engaged in mediation with Lebanon over the rights to the offshore gas field.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) Prime Minister Yair Lapid (center) and Northern Command chief Amir Baram on the Lebanese border, near the coast, on July 19, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Last month, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein discussed with Israel’s negotiating team a Lebanese proposal to arrive at a solution.

According to Hochstein, Lebanon had agreed to drop demands for control of part of the Karish field claimed by Israel, asking in exchange for full control of the Qana gas field that also straddles the countries’ offshore economic zones.

In what was seen as an attempt to torpedo efforts, Lebanon’s Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh, who is affiliated with Hezbollah, demanded on Monday that Israel give Lebanon control over a long-shuttered rail tunnel that goes from Israel’s northern border town of Rosh Hanikra and stretches hundreds of meters into Lebanon.

Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their exclusive economic zones.

Israel maintains sovereignty over the Karish gas field and has been seeking to develop it as it tries to position itself as a natural gas supplier to Europe

In June, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo that will see Israel export its natural gas to the bloc for the first time.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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