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Report: IDF sees ‘reasonable possibility’ of clash with Hezbollah over gas dispute

Document said by Channel 12 to be drawn up by Northern Command says Iran-backed terror group could seek confrontation to extricate itself from internal problems

Supporters of Hezbollah attend a televised speech by the Lebanese terror group's leader Hassan Nasrallah during a ceremony to lay the foundation for a site for 'jihadist tourism,' at a camp formerly run by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon to train Hezbollah fighters, in the Janta region in the east of the country on August 19, 2022. (AFP)
Supporters of Hezbollah attend a televised speech by the Lebanese terror group's leader Hassan Nasrallah during a ceremony to lay the foundation for a site for 'jihadist tourism,' at a camp formerly run by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon to train Hezbollah fighters, in the Janta region in the east of the country on August 19, 2022. (AFP)

In a new military assessment cited by Channel 12 news Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces are said to believe there is a “reasonable possibility” of a confrontation with the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group as tensions heighten amid US-mediated talks over a maritime dispute.

The dispute, which involves competing claims over offshore gas fields, escalated in June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by its northern neighbor.

On Friday, US mediator Amos Hochstein noted progress in indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel, but said more work was needed for a final agreement. Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Hezbollah has threatened the gas extraction installations, prompting the IDF to ramp up defenses and activity in the area.

According to the document cited by Channel 12, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah may go to war with Israel in order to regain popularity in Lebanon.

The network said the report was put together by the IDF’s Northern Command, but did not publish the actual document, only noting certain parts of it.

Hebrew-language military correspondents are regularly briefed off the record by senior Israeli officials, who demand they not disclose where the information they publish originates.

Hezbollah fighters hold their group’s flag as they stand in front of a statue of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and swear their oath of allegiance to him, during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of his assassination, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on January 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

According to Channel 12, the IDF document said Hezbollah has become “greedy and corrupt” and “is losing support and is subject to harsh criticism in Lebanon.”

It also noted that Hezbollah’s leadership is “losing control over military operatives in the field.”

Regarding Nasrallah himself, the document said that following the 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, “Nasrallah is isolated. The Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance has been shaken up.”

It said that Nasrallah “through his threats tries to credit himself with the achievement of bringing the gas” to Lebanon and he may seek to go to war to extricate himself from his internal difficulties.

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

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a war in 2006. Beirut and Jerusalem have no diplomatic relations and are separated by the UN-patrolled ceasefire line.

In June, the IDF held a major military exercise in Cyprus, simulating a ground offensive deep inside Lebanon in a potential war against the Iran-backed group.

Hezbollah has long been the IDF’s most significant adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.

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