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July 20, 2022 5:11 pm

Hezbollah Chief: ‘Not Certain’ If Heading to War With Israel Over Maritime Dispute

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally commemorating late Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine who was killed in an attack in Syria, in Beirut suburbs, Lebanon May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

The head of the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah said on Tuesday night that war with Israel over a maritime boundary is “not certain,” amid ongoing negotiations between Jerusalem and Beirut to resolve the dispute.

“There will be no oil extraction across the Israeli entity if Lebanon does not obtain its rights,” said Hassan Nasrallah in comments carried by Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar newspaper, and translated by the online portal Naharnet.

On Monday, the Israeli military downed a drone sent from Lebanon into its territory, just weeks after it intercepted several drones launched by Hezbollah towards the offshore Karish gas field in the Mediterranean.

Israel has said the field is firmly within its exclusive economic zone, though Lebanon disputes this. The two countries, which have no diplomatic relations, are now engaged in US-facilitated negotiations to delineate their maritime border, in order to facilitate the development of offshore energy assets.

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“We’re not sure that we’re heading to a war,” said Nasrallah. “We might witness a surgical attack and a proportionate response, and the issue is related to the response of the Israelis, which might push things gradually to war.”

“It is not our desire to open a front,” he continued. “We only want our rights and we’re escalating our rhetoric so that the Americans and Israelis submit, because the course of the collapse in Lebanon is continuing.”

Lebanon has been afflicted by a deep economic crisis since 2019, amid high national debt, political stagnation, corruption, sectarianism, and a rollback in foreign aid. The value of its currency has cratered, electricity shortages have resulted in chronic outages, and more than three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line.

Lebanon is before “a historic and golden chance to overcome its crisis,” said Nasrallah on Tuesday, adding that “if we don’t make use of it, we might not extract oil for the next 100 years.”

He asserted that while Lebanon “has offered major concessions” in the US-mediated talks, it “has not obtained the least of its demands.”

A war with Israel “might escalate to [involve] the entire axis in a manner that would destroy it,” the Hezbollah chief warned — an apparent reference to the regional alliance of Shiite and other actors that, like Hezbollah, operate with Iranian support, including in Syria, Iraq, and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned that while Israel has “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.”

Nasrallah has previously spoken of war in the context of the maritime dispute. Earlier this month, he said that if “Lebanon receives no aid” and “is pushed towards collapse, hunger and people fighting one another,” then war would be a preferable alternative.

“The threat of war, and even going into war, is much more honorable and glorious,” Nasrallah claimed, according to a translation shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “If we decide to go to war, this alternative has a future.”

“The enemy can be defeated — before the war, when it begins, during the war, when it ends,” he added. “Then we will be able to impose our conditions, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, and save our country.”

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