Hezbollah warns Israel over maritime border dispute

Lebanon’s Hezbollah has published a video showing vessels involved in the Israeli offshore oil and gas industry and warned the country against “playing with time”. Hezbollah restated its threat of military escalation amid maritime border demarcation talks. The footage, which was released on Sunday, came as US energy envoy Amos Hochstein landed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut to mediate ongoing talks between Lebanon and Israel over their sea borders.

Lebanon claims that the Karish gas field is disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations. Israel has rejected this, saying that there is no dispute and that the field lies within Israel’s internationally recognised economic waters.

Lebanese caretaker foreign minister Abdallah Bou Habib said last Friday July 29th that Hochstein would inform Lebanon of Israel’s response to Lebanon’s June proposal, adding that he was optimistic about reaching an agreement soon.

Hezbollah warned that it was ready to prevent Israel from extracting hydrocarbons, should Lebanon not be allowed to do so.

Early in July the Israeli military shot down three Hezbollah unarmed drones flying over the Karish gas field.

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati criticised the Hezbollah actions, saying the move could pose risks to the country. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week that the armed group could locate and strike Karish, and indeed “any other Israeli gas field”.

Sunday’s video contained a rare glimpse of Hezbollah weaponry; it was broadcast on the group’s Al-Manar TV station.

A statement on Saturday by the US Department of State said Hochstein’s Beirut visit would aim to facilitate talks on the maritime boundary.

“Reaching a resolution is both necessary and possible, but can only be done through negotiations and diplomacy,” it said.

It was reported that Hochstein’s proposal would include a solution that would allow the Lebanese to develop the gas reserves in the disputed area, while preserving Israel’s commercial rights.