Hezbollah vows to protect Lebanon’s oil, gas in dispute with Israel
Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah vowed that it has the capabilities to prevent Israel from extracting oil and gas from a disputed offshore field in the Mediterranean.
In a televised speech, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the group “will not remain silent if the Israeli enemy steals Lebanon’s oil and gas wealth”, reports Xinhua news agency.
He stressed that Hezbollah has the financial, military, logistical and human capabilities to stop Israel’s extraction.
His remarks came a day after Israeli authorities said they “prepared to defend” the Energean Power floating gas production rig recently sent to the Karish gas field, which Israel claims is within its economic zone while Lebanon insists it lies in the disputed waters.
“All the measures adopted by the Israeli enemy cannot protect the Greek vessel in its oil extraction operations in the Karish field,” Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah leader said that Lebanon does not want war, however, in the event of a war, Israeli military leaders should be aware that it would incur more losses on the Israeli side.
He also slammed the US and Israel for not only depriving Lebanon of “natural rights” in the Karish oil but also blocking Lebanese extraction outside of the disputed areas.
Lebanon said on Monday it would invite US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein to resume indirect border demarcation talks with Israel in a bid “to prevent any escalation that would not serve the stability in the region”.
Hochstein is expected to visit Lebanon by the beginning of next week.
Israel said that the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, where drilling has been planned, is “in Israel’s territorial waters”, rejecting Lebanon’s claim that at least part of the field is disputed.
Earlier, Lebanese President Michel Aoun had warned that any drilling activities by Israel in the territorial disputed area with Lebanon “constitute a provocation and a hostile act”, referring to the Karish field issue.
“The Karish field is in Israel’s territorial waters even according to a map submitted by Lebanon to the United Nations in 2011,” Shaked Eliyahu, the spokeswoman for Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, told Xinhua news agency late Monday.
“The field is located south of the two border lines both Israel and Lebanon submitted to the UN in 2011,” she said.
The Israeli government issued a drilling license for the Karish field as early as 2008, according to Eliyahu.
On Monday, the Israeli Energy Ministry announced in a statement that a natural gas rig has reached its destination in the Karish gas field.
The rig is expected to connect Karish and other nearby fields and supply about half of the demand for natural gas in Israel’s economy, it said.
The Ministry added that commercial production from Karish is expected to begin in September.
Israel had initially claimed the Karish field as its own property, but later Lebanon expanded its claim in territorial waters which would include at least part of the oil field.
This has resulted in the halt of indirect negotiations for the demarcation of the maritime borders between the two countries.