IDF Shoots Down 'Three Hezbollah Drones' Launched Towards Karish Gas Field - Video
17:26 GMT 02.07.2022 (Updated: 17:54 GMT 02.07.2022)
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a meeting with top security officials after Hezbollah drones were intercepted en route to the Karish gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced that it shot down three drones launched by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah movement. According to the IDF, the UAVs were launched towards the Karish gas field, which Israel says is part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone. Lebanon lays claim to parts of the gas field.
According to the Israeli military, one of the drones was shot down by an F-16 fighter jet, and the other two by Barak missiles fired from the Saar 5 Class Corvette INS Eilat. The drones were “identified at an early stage and monitored throughout their flight by air control units” and “intercepted at the most appropriate operational point,” the IDF explained.
The military added that a preliminary investigation showed that the drones did not pose a real threat at any point during their flight.
A video showing the moment the drones were intercepted has emerged online:
Following the incident, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situational assessment with top military brass. Gantz emphasized the following:
"The State of Israel is prepared to defend its infrastructure in the face of any threat. The Hezbollah terror organization undermines the Lebanese state's ability to reach an agreement on the maritime border that is essential to Lebanon's economy and citizens."
Hezbollah has previously warned that it "can prevent" Israel from pumping gas from the disputed Karish field.
"We have the military, logistical, and intelligence capability to prevent the enemy from producing gas from the Karish field. Our maritime wealth is Lebanon's only hope if it wants to save itself from economic collapse. The Lebanese losses in the event of war are nothing compared to what will happen on the Israeli entity's side, and if there is a war, it will have existential repercussions for Israel," Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said last month.
At the time, Israel's Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to Nasrallah's remarks, saying, "No one will dictate whether or not we drill for gas in the State of Israel's economic waters. Israel is a sovereign state and will continue to make decisions solely in accordance with its interests and without taking into consideration threats from terrorists of any kind. I propose Nasrallah keep hiding in his bunker. His videos from there don't impress anyone."
Shortly thereafter, Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister and Prime Minister-designate Yair Lapid, and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar issued a statement on the Karish field to clarify that Israel would not drill for gas in disputed waters.
The trio said that the gas field was "located inside Israeli territory, kilometers south of the area on which negotiations are being held between Israel and the state of Lebanon with US mediation. The gas field will not pump gas from the disputed territory."
"The State of Israel views the safeguarding of its strategic assets with utmost importance and is prepared to protect them and their infrastructure security, all this in accordance with its rights. Additionally, we call on the State of Lebanon to expedite negotiations on the maritime border. Gas-based energy resources can do a lot to assist Lebanon's economy and its citizens, and that is the chief interest of the State of Lebanon in promoting dialogue on the issue, and we hope that this will happen," they added in a joint statement.
Lebanon and Israel have no diplomatic relations and view each other as enemy states, having last fought a war in 2006. Nonethless, the two sides have been engaged in indirect talks brokered by the United States for almost two years to resolve a maritime border dispute. Both countries claim that a triangular area of the Mediterranean Sea, which is believed to be rich in energy resources, is located within their respective territorial waters.
Last month, Lebanese negotiators reportedly said they would be willing to drop demands for control of part of a gas field claimed by Tel Aviv. However, in exchange, they would seek full control of another gas field that also extends across the countries’ offshore economic zones. The reported offer would give Israel the Karish field and Lebanon would get the Qana field.
The dispute over the maritime border can be traced back to 2012, when Lebanon rejected an American proposal, under which Beirut would have gotten 550 square km - almost two-thirds of the area - while Tel Aviv would have acquired the remaining third.