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August 22, 2022 2:44 pm
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Hezbollah Attack on Israel Gas Field May Spark War With Hezbollah, Israel’s Defense Head Warns

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

London-based Energean’s drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the east Mediterranean May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Ari Rabinovitch

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Monday that an attack on its natural gas assets in the Mediterranean by the Hezbollah organization could spark war with the Iran-backed terrorist group.

“The State of Israel has announced that it will protect its assets, and it is ready to reach agreements with the administration in Lebanon over the Karish gas field,” Gantz told Israel radio station 103FM.

Asked whether a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli gas field could spark war, Benny Gantz responded: “Yes, that could trigger a reaction, leading to a military campaign of a number of days which we are prepared for, but we hope we don’t get to it.”

Israel has in recent weeks attempted to build deterrence against Hezbollah as its head, Hassan Nasrallah, escalates threats to attack Israeli targets in the disputed Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean, which is set to start oil extraction in September.

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On Friday, Nasrallah threatened of “heading toward an escalation” if its demands are not met in US-mediated talks, as Russian media reported that Israel and Lebanon are on the verge of reaching an agreement on the demarcation of the disputed maritime border. Meanwhile, US mediator Amos Hochstein is expected to travel to Beirut at the end of the month.

Israel maintains that the Karish oil field is firmly within its exclusive economic zone, which Lebanon disputes. The two countries, which have no diplomatic relations, have been locked in US-facilitated negotiations to delineate their maritime border, in order to facilitate the development of offshore energy assets.

Gantz said that he believes that going forward, there will be two gas platforms.

“One on our side and one on theirs,” he said while emphasizing that he hoped that it would not lead to a round of fighting before then.

Tensions have been rising along Israel’s northern border as the Israeli military last month 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.

Amos Yadlin, former chief of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, said that Nasrallah’s threats to damage Israel’s energy assets in the Mediterranean Sea have recently turned into a “routine” rhetoric increasing the probability that the terror group is going to repeat the same “mistake” which led to the last war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006.

“The threats are not uttered in a vacuum and alongside them come actions,” Yadlin tweeted. “Hezbollah is showing increasing self-confidence in southern Lebanon and the actions, beyond the tactical level, may reflect excessive confidence of the organization, and perhaps of its leader, in its ability to challenge Israel below the threshold of war.”

The Israeli government must make every effort to prevent escalation and seek to resolve the maritime border dispute, but at the same time be ready for a full-scale campaign, Yadlin cautioned.

“It is very important to make it clear to Hezbollah that the path it is treading will lead to its destruction, and that it should not be mistaken again in assessing Israel’s determination to defend itself,” he said.

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