Israeli Barges in Disputed Gas Field Are 'Within Range,' Hezbollah Threatens in New Video

The Hezbollah video was aired as the U.S. envoy was landing in Beirut to present a new Israeli proposal that 'includes a solution that would allow the Lebanese to develop the gas reserves in the disputed area' too, according to a senior Israeli official

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Energean’s drill ship at the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean, in May.
Energean’s drill ship at the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean, in May.Credit: ARI RABINOVITCH/Reuters

Lebanon's Hezbollah on Sunday aired footage of Israeli ships in a disputed gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, highlighting the tension at the center of U.S.-mediated maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel.

The footage was aired as the U.S. energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, was landing in Beirut to mediate ongoing talks between Lebanon and Israel over their sea borders. Lebanon claims the Karish gas field is disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations, whereas Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.

A State Department statement on Hochstein's visit stressed a solution on the issue of maritime borders "is both necessary and possible, but can only be done through negotiations and diplomacy."

Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib in a statement Friday said Hochstein will inform Lebanon of Israel’s response to Lebanon’s June proposal, adding that he was optimistic about reaching an agreement soon.

A senior Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Hochstein would represent a new Israeli proposal that "includes a solution that would allow the Lebanese to develop the gas reserves in the disputed area while preserving Israel's commercial rights."

If this reaches agreement, it would entail "some drilling there" by the Lebanese, the Israeli official said without elaborating.

"The offer that has been relayed is a serious proposal that can transform Lebanon from a country of economic ruin and energy crises to a natural gas-producing country, by enabling it to cultivate this resource," the official said.

The footage aired on the Iran-backed party and militia's Al-Manar television, showed barges over the Karish gas field and their coordinates. It ended with footage of a rocket with the words “within range” in Arabic and Hebrew.

There was no immediate response to the video from Israel.

The Israeli military earlier this month shot down three Hezbollah unarmed drones flying over Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati criticized Hezbollah, saying the move could pose risks to the country.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in an interview last week said that the militant group can locate and strike Karish and any other Israeli gas field.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz. According to an Israeli statement, the two discussed the "need to pursue an agreement on the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon," as well as other regional issues.

Following his last visit in June, Hochstein told U.S.-funded Al-Hurra television that the Lebanese government took “a very strong step forward” by presenting a more united approach, and anticipated that there could be progress to reach a settlement.

The two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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