IDF on high alert, wary of possible Hezbollah attack

Israel and Lebanon are reportedly closing in on a deal to end a longstanding dispute over contested offshore natural-gas deposits. 

By JNS

The Israel Defense Forces is on high alert amid fears that Hezbollah could launch an attack in a bid to derail an emerging maritime border deal between Jerusalem and Beirut that would end a longstanding dispute over contested offshore natural-gas deposits, local media reported on Tuesday.

Israel and Lebanon have for more than a year been engaged in intermittent indirect talks mediated by the United States aimed at resolving the issue.

According to reports, the sides are nearing a compromise regarding the Karish field, in particular, which Israel considers to be in its exclusive economic zone but the Lebanese government claims sovereignty over.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has upped his rhetoric ahead of a possible breakthrough in the negotiations, having previously threatened war over the matter.

“The new equation is, Karish, what’s beyond Karish, and what’s beyond, beyond Karish,” said Nasrallah in remarks last month made available by the Lebanese Naharnet news website.

“We’re following up on all gas fields across Palestine,” said Nasrallah. “If you don’t allow firms to extract gas, we’ll flip the table on the entire world. Going to war would be more honorable if the other choice is for the Lebanese to starve.”

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On July 2, Hezbollah sent three unmanned aerial vehicles in the direction of the Karish platform, all of which were intercepted by the IDF.

U.S. senior adviser for Energy Security Amos Hochstein arrived in Israel in early August for an unannounced visit after reportedly presenting a new draft proposal to Lebanese officials during meetings in Beirut. The visit to Jerusalem came just days after Israeli officials suggested that the dispute between the countries was “on the verge of a solution.”

Previous U.S.-mediated talks failed to produce an agreement, especially after Lebanon pushed its claim in the disputed maritime zone from a boundary known as “Line 23” further south to “Line 29,” adding around 1,400 square kilometers (540 square miles) to its claim, including part of Karish.

Nasrallah recently told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV channel: “If the extraction of oil and gas from Karish begins in September before Lebanon obtains its right, we would be heading to a ‘problem,’ and we’ll do anything to achieve our objective.”