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July 19, 2022 12:16 pm

Israel Says Hezbollah’s ‘Unacceptable Aggression’ Could Trigger ‘Escalation’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz visit the northern border with Lebanon. Photo: Ariel Hermoni / Ministry of Defense

Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah against further incursions into Israeli territory, a day after the IDF downed a drone that crossed from the northern border, “likely” emanating from the Iran-backed terrorist group.

“While we have no interest in escalation, Hezbollah’s aggression is unacceptable and is liable to lead the entire region into an unnecessary escalation, just when there is a genuine opportunity for Lebanon to develop its energy resources,” Lapid said. “The State of Israel is prepared to act against any threat.”

Israeli military forces on Monday shot down a drone sent from Lebanon, coming weeks after the IDF intercepted drones launched by Hezbollah at a rig in the Karish gas field, located offshore between Lebanon and Israel. Israel has said the field is firmly within its exclusive economic zone, which Lebanon disputes.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah admitted last week that the Shiite group had sent three reconnaissance drones earlier this month into the Mediterranean Sea, hinting at more attacks to thwart Israeli actions to develop natural gas finds in the area. The Hezbollah leader has touted the natural gas reserves as a potential game changer for the country’s economy.

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“Whoever tries to attack our sovereignty or Israeli citizens – will learn very quickly that they have made a serious mistake,” Lapid warned.

The Israeli premier spoke during a tour of the IDF Northern Command along the Lebanese border with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, where they held an operational assessment with senior commanders.

“We are prepared in all areas — land, sea, air and cyber,” Gantz said.

The defense minister asserted said Israel remains “ready to do much for its neighbors’ prosperity and is prepared to take action at any time to protect its citizens.”

“We see the crisis in Lebanon, which is hurting its citizens,” Gantz remarked. “Lebanon and its leaders know very well that if they choose the path of confrontation – they will be hurt and get burned severely.”

The Hezbollah drone launch at the Israeli rig drew a rare rebuke from the Lebanese prime minister, who said it posed “unnecessary risks” amid US-mediated efforts to resolve the maritime border dispute diplomatically.

Speaking later on Tuesday after flying over the Karish natural gas platform by helicopter, Lapid touted the reserves’ potential to ease pressure on the current global energy crisis.

“Lebanon could also benefit from developing the reserves in its economic waters, through negotiations, which should be concluded forthwith,” Lapid emphasized. “This new platform is the energy future of the State of Israel and constitutes an economic opportunity, which includes the export of gas to Egypt and Europe, that every Israeli citizen will benefit from in the not-too-distant future.”

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