Lapid Says Israel Will ‘Continue to Defend Itself’ After Intercepting Hezbollah Drones
Prime Minister Yair Lapid pledged to continue defend Israel a day after the country’s air force foiled an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack by the Hezbollah terror group on the disputed Karish gas field in Israeli economic waters.
“The IDF intercepted three hostile UAVs that tried to harm Israeli infrastructure in Israel’s economic waters,” Lapid stated Sunday, at his first weekly cabinet meeting since taking over as caretaker prime minister. “Hezbollah is continuing on the path of terrorism and is hurting Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on a maritime border.”
“Israel will continue to defend itself, its citizens and its assets,” he warned.
On Saturday, an Israel Air Force fighter jet and navy missile ship intercepted three hostile drones from Lebanon flying in the direction of the Karish gas rig over the Mediterranean Sea. One UAV was intercepted by an F-16 Barak fighter jet which was dispatched to the scene from the 109th Squadron in Ramat David. The two other drones were intercepted by the INS Eilat missile ship, using Barak interceptors.
“The UAVs were identified at an early stage and intercepted at the optimal operational point,” the IDF said. “An initial inquiry suggests that the UAVs did not pose an imminent threat.”
The attempted Hezbollah attack comes amid a dispute between Lebanon and Israel over maritime gas resources. The tensions center around the Karish gas rig, which Israel has said is firmly within its exclusive economic zone, as Lebanon has maintained that it is located in disputed territory.
In May, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, touted the natural gas reserves as a potential game changer for the country’s economy, threatening action if Israel prevented drilling oil and gas in the disputed area.
“Hezbollah’s provocation on Saturday can be viewed as a warning to Israel and energy companies that it has the capability of disrupting gas and oil extractions in the disputed area by military means,” Joe Truzman, an analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), commented Sunday. “While the IDF was successful in destroying the drones before they reached Israel’s maritime waters, Hezbollah will likely market the operation as a propaganda victory by saying Nasrallah carried out the warning he made in May.”
IDF spokesman Ran Kochav told Israeli broadcaster Kan that the military is preparing for further possible UAV launches by Hezbollah in the area over the coming weeks.
Lapid took over as Israel’s interim prime minister at midnight on Friday, replacing Naftali Bennett, as the Israeli parliament disbanded ahead of new elections in the fall.
“Our goal – that of this entire table – in the coming months will be to manage the government as if elections were not being held,” Lapid told ministers at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “The citizens of Israel are entitled to a government that constantly functions.”
“The Iranians, Hamas and Hezbollah will not wait,” he cautioned.