Israel has sent “strong warnings” to Hezbollah through diplomatic and military channels amid repeated threats from the terrorist group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, according to a Tuesday report.
The messages — passed along through the US and France — warned the terror group that any action taken against the offshore Karish gas field would provoke a strong IDF response, Channel 12 reported.
In a Monday interview with the pro-Hezbollah Al Maydeen outlet, Nasrallah warned that all Israeli land and sea “targets” are within the range of his group’s missiles, in the latest series of threats against the Jewish state amid an ongoing maritime dispute.
He said Hezbollah would act if Israel moved forward with plans to extract gas from the Karish gas field, a natural gas reservoir located in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Israel and Lebanon, which do not have diplomatic relations, have been engaged in indirect talks mediated by the US over the rights to the offshore gas field as well as to demarcate a maritime border between the two countries.
According to Channel 12, Israel is pressuring Washington to try and reach an agreement with Lebanon in the coming weeks — before it is set to begin extracting gas from Karish in September. Nasrallah on Monday warned Israel against moving forward with such plans in the absence of a maritime deal that meets his demands regarding gas rights in the disputed waters.
“We’ve set our goals… and won’t hesitate or hold back in achieving them,” he said.
Last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid flew over Karish in an apparent move to underline Israeli sovereignty over the site.
Hezbollah has escalated its rhetoric and actions over the border dispute since Israel moved a gas drilling vessel into the field, which Lebanon claims is a disputed area. In its boldest move, Hezbollah sent four drones towards the Karish platform late last month, all of which were intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces.
Nasrallah warned at the time that the drones sent to Karish were “only the beginning,” and that his group would go to war over the field.
On Monday, Nasrallah said the drone attack by Hezbollah was initiated in response to “violations” of Lebanon’s airspace by Israel. He claimed that such encroachments by Israel have been reduced since the terror group’s UAV operation.
Amid the escalation in tensions, the IDF has instituted a strict security ring around Karish and Israel’s territorial waters more broadly, with regular naval patrols, Channel 12 said. IAF and IDF troops stationed along the Lebanese border have also been placed on heightened alert.
Former National Security Council chairman Yaakov Amidror told Channel 12 that Israel still must take Nasrallah’s warnings seriously. “If there’s no agreement [on Karish] when the time comes to extract the gas out of the sea, one must assume there’ll be a war. Hopefully there won’t be, but that can’t be the assumption,” he said.
US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein visited the region last month and managed to convince Lebanon to come down from an earlier claim to a massive maritime zone that included Karish, which Israel seeks to develop as it tries to position itself as a natural gas supplier to Europe.
Nasrallah said Monday that “the Americans distracted Lebanon” with the negotiations as Israel began efforts to extract gas from the Eastern Mediterranean. He also claimed that the US “pressured” Lebanon to agree to Israel’s demands regarding the maritime border.
“The Lebanese state is incapable of making the right decision that would protect Lebanon and its riches, therefore the resistance must take this decision,” Nasrallah said, a further shot at the government in Beirut.
The Hezbollah leader clarified that his claims are not just in regards to Karish, but rather “all of the oil and gas fields looted by Israel in Palestine’s waters.”