Israel says it shot down 3 Lebanese Hezbollah drones in the Mediterranean

Israel says it shot down 3 Lebanese Hezbollah drones in the Mediterranean

The Israeli army said on Saturday that it shot down three Lebanese Hezbollah drones which it said were heading for a gas field in the Mediterranean, at the heart of an upsurge in tensions in recent weeks between Israel and Lebanon.

Three drones approaching Israel’s economic waters interceptedthe military said in a statement, saying the unmanned craft had been launched by Hezbollah and were heading towards the offshore Karish field. The powerful armed movement of Hezbollah confirmed the launch of “three unarmed drones heading to the disputed Karish field for reconnaissance missions“. “The mission has been accomplished“, he said in a statement, without mentioning the interception of drones.

But according to the Israeli army, the drones were shot down before approaching the gas field. One drone was intercepted by a fighter jet, and the other two by a warship, Israeli military sources said. For Lebanon, the Karish field is in part of disputed waters with Israel. The Jewish state believes that it is located in its exclusive economic zone. A sworn enemy of Israel, Hezbollah has a preponderant influence in Lebanon. He is also a close ally of Iran, another pet peeve of Israel.

This incident comes the day after the assumption of duties in Israel by centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who officially succeeded Naftali Bennett on Friday. “I stand before you and say to all who want us gone, from Gaza to Tehran, from the sides of Lebanon to Syria: don’t test us! Israel knows how to use its force against any threat and against any enemy“Yaïr Lapid declared Saturday evening in his first speech as Prime Minister.

Do everything»

Yair Lapid did not comment directly on the interception of the drones, but said his country would “do everything in his power” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or “take root at our borders“. Israel accuses Iran, which denies, of seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran militarily supports the power in Syria, a neighboring country of the Jewish state. The discovery in recent years of vast gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetite of the neighboring countries and fueled border disputes.

Lebanon and Israel, two neighboring countries officially still in a state of war, began unprecedented negotiations in October 2020 under the aegis of Washington to delimit their maritime border, in order to remove obstacles to hydrocarbon prospecting. But talks were suspended in May 2021 following disputes over the surface of the disputed area including the Karish gas field.

Not arms crossed»

For the Jewish state, the Karish field is located in Israeli territory “several kilometers from the area covered by the negotiationswith Lebanon, which is also suggested by an analysis of satellite images carried out by the Israeli daily Haaretz. For Beirut, this deposit is in disputed waters.

Tensions resurfaced in early June with the arrival at the Karish field of a ship chartered on behalf of the Jewish state by the British exploration company Energean Plc. On June 9, Hezbollah, whose influence is predominant in Lebanon, affirmed that “the immediate objective should be to prevent the enemy from extracting oil and gas from the Karish gas field“.

Its leader Hassan Nasrallah then warned that his movement “will not stand idly by in the face of the plundering of Lebanon’s natural wealth (…) which represents the only hope of salvation for the Lebanese people“.