Lebanon's caretaker prime minister on Monday criticized Hezbollah for sending three unmanned aircraft over Israel's Karish gas rig last week, calling it a risky move done without government coordination amid talks over the countries' maritime border.
"The launching of drones was carried out without any coordination with the Lebanese government, outside its purview and in contrast to diplomatic efforts and ongoing talks in advanced stages to reach an agreement on the maritime border," Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a statement.
The comments came two days after Hezbollah launched three drones over the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli military said on Saturday said that it had shot down the three drones, before Hezbollah issued a statement saying they were unarmed and were sent on a reconnaissance mission. “The mission was accomplished and the message was received,” Hezbollah said.
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.
- Hezbollah’s drones are aimed at Lebanon’s president too
- Lebanon ready to drop claim for disputed gas field off Israeli coast, officials say
- Hezbollah sends a message with three unarmed drones over Israel's maritime zone
“Lebanon believes that any actions outside the state’s framework and diplomatic context while negotiations are taking place is unacceptable and exposes it to unnecessary risks,” Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib said, citing Mikati’s statement.
The incident in the Karish gas field took place soon after U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein recently visited Lebanese and Israeli officials, as talks were advancing.
Mikati on Saturday told reporters that Lebanon had received “encouraging information” regarding the border dispute, but refused to comment until after he received a “written official response to the suggestions by the Lebanese side.”
Negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to determine their maritime borders commenced in October 2020, when the two sides held indirect U.S.-mediated talks in southern Lebanon. Since taking over the mediation from late 2021, Hochstein has resorted to shuttle diplomacy with visits to both Beirut and Jerusalem.
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.