Hezbollah warns Israel against extracting disputed Karish gas field: Peoples Dispatch

The deputy secretary general of the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem, claimed on Tuesday (July 5th) that Israel should not be allowed to extract Lebanon’s natural resources from the Karish gas fields. Stating that “the equation is clear”, Qassem said Hezbollah would not sit back and watch the plunder of Lebanon’s resources. He said: “We demand our oil and our rights without compromise”, al-Mayadeen reported.

Qassem was speaking at the ceremony commemorating the 40th day of the founding of Hezbollah. A few days earlier, Israeli forces claimed to have shot down three Hezbollah drones before they could hit the Karish gas field.

On Saturday July 2, Hezbollah claimed to have launched three drones towards the Karish field during a reconnaissance mission.

A Hezbollah official claimed that Israel could not extract gas from Karish “until we reach an agreement to mark the borders in the disputed areas”. He said the purpose behind sending the drones to Karish was “to send a message to Israel” regarding Lebanon’s position on the indirect talks with the Zionist regime. He said the objective was “achieved” before Israel shot down the drones. The anonymous Hezbollah source was quoted by the Iranian Press TV.

The Karish gas field is located about 80 kilometers west of the port city of Haifa in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel in May signed a $2 billion deal with European firm Energean Power to extract gas from Karish, which is expected to come online by the end of this year.

Lebanon claims the gas field falls within its own exclusive economic zone, which extends to line 29, and Israel violated Lebanese sovereignty by claiming the Karish field as its own. Lebanon disputes Israeli claims of sovereignty over the fields, which are based exclusively on a 2011 map prepared by US Ambassador Frederic C Hof. The map demarcates Line 23 as the Lebanese Line, giving Karish Field entirely to Israel.

Since Lebanon has no diplomatic relations with Israel, it has been indirectly negotiating the border dispute under US mediation for years now.

The Israeli aggression has also been criticized by the Lebanese Communist Party and the Forces of Change, a new group made up of left-wing and progressive forces that won 13 seats in the last legislative elections in May this year. Forces of Change has organized several protests against Israel and called that all Lebanese groups unite to demand line 29 as the line of Lebanese sovereignty.

Israel recently signed a gas deal with the European Union and the Karish field is expected to increase its overall gas production to meet its export commitments. Israel produces about 12 billion cubic meters of gas per year, most of which is used domestically. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid claims on different occasions that Israel is ready to do anything to defend its claims on Karish.

Karish mining is a threat to peace in the region

After the Arrivals of the Energean Power vessel at the Karish field last month, Lebanese Defense Minister Maurice Slim claimed that Israeli activity in the disputed territory “constitutes a challenge and a provocation for Lebanon and constitutes a flagrant breach of the stability” in the region. Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun had also called for immediate international intervention to prevent Israel from again violating Lebanese sovereignty and international law.

Since its formation in 1948, Israel has invaded Lebanon several times. The UN formed its Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 1978 and later expanded its mandate to include, among other things, monitoring the cessation of hostilities in the region following the 2006 Israeli attack south of the Lebanon.

Hezbollah was originally formed in 1982 as a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. It was a leading force against the occupation, which lasted nearly two decades, and against repeated Israeli aggression, including the latest invasion in 2006. Hezbollah has become a prominent political group in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s interim government criticized the launch of Hezbollah drones on Saturday as unacceptable, and seeks a negotiated settlement with Israel. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last month that the group’s main objective was to prevent “the enemy from extracting oil and gas from Karish and preventing the activity that is about to start or has already started”.

Denise W. Whigham