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Home World News Washington Post World News Hezbollah threatens Israel with escalation in border conflict

Hezbollah threatens Israel with escalation in border conflict

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BEIRUT – The leader of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon on Wednesday threatened military escalation if a future deal over the disputed maritime border between the two countries does not favor Lebanon.

Sayyed Hassan Narallah said in a televised speech that Lebanon must be able to extract oil and gas from Lebanese waters. He warned that sending unarmed drones over the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean earlier this month was “a humble start to where the situation could be headed”.

On July 2, the Israeli military said it shot down three drones before Hezbollah issued a statement that they were unarmed and sent on a reconnaissance mission. “The mission has been accomplished and the message has been received,” a Hezbollah statement said at the time.

Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies who fought a month-long war in the summer of 2006. Israel views the Iran-backed Lebanese group as the greatest immediate threat, and estimates that it has some 150,000 missiles and missiles aimed at Israel.

“The message from the drones meant that we are serious and that we are not looking for a psychological war, but we are gradually moving in our steps,” Nasrallah said, adding that Lebanese officials should use the strength of his group to use it in indirect conversations.

Nasrallah added that “whatever we have to do, we will do without any hesitation. This message was understood by the Israelis and by the Americans.”

Nasrallah declined to comment on the Lebanese interim prime minister’s criticism of Hezbollah for sending the drones. Najib Mikati said at the time that it was an unnecessarily risky move.

“We don’t care whether our message was understood in Lebanon or not. What’s important to us is that the enemy gets the message,” he said.

The incident in the Karish gas field happened shortly after US mediator Amos Hochstein visited Lebanese and Israeli officials as talks progressed.

Nasrallah’s comments came hours after President Joe Biden arrived in Israel to begin his first visit to the Middle East as president.

Lebanon claims the Karish gas field is disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations, while Israel says it is within its internationally recognized economic waters.

Negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to determine their maritime borders began in October 2020, when the two sides held indirect US-brokered talks in southern Lebanon. Since Hochstein took over mediation from late 2021, Hochstein has resorted to shuttle diplomacy with visits to both Beirut and Jerusalem.

Nasrallah said it was the first time Hezbollah sent three drones at the same time, adding that when Israeli forces opened fire near Karish, it was a message to the facility’s engineers that this is not a safe area.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah has other options in the air and sea besides drones and “all options are on the table.”

“If we go to war, we can impose our conditions on the enemy,” Nasrallah said, adding that if the Americans “don’t give us our rights demanded by the state and if you don’t allow companies to buy (oil) God knows what we will do. We will turn the table in the face of the world.”

Israel and Lebanon, which have been officially at war since Israel’s founding in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.



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