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Israeli Escalation Coincides with Lebanon’s Oil Drilling Preparations

Israeli Escalation Coincides with Lebanon’s Oil Drilling Preparations

Sunday, 7 October, 2018 - 08:00
An offshore oil drilling platform. (AP)
Beirut - Nazeer Rida
The recent Israeli escalation against Lebanon coincided with Lebanese preparations to launch drilling for offshore gas and oil in early 2019. Israel is making similar preparations for its Karish field near the Lebanese maritime borders. This move is viewed as an Israeli attempt to discourage companies from drilling in Lebanese areas.

The oil and gas file is among one of many disputes between Lebanon and Israel.

The tensions between the two neighbors was brought to the forefront in recent weeks when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the armed “Hezbollah” party had set up missiles and weapons caches near Beirut’s international airport. This prompted responses from Lebanese officials, who refuted the Israeli charges.

The ensuing tensions have weighed heavily on the upcoming oil and gas drilling plans.

Lebanese March 8 camp sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the exploration file is a “double-edged sword.”

“Israel’s negative policies have long leaned towards war and it must realize than any harm against Lebanon will also affect it,” they warned.

“Lebanon will not remain silent. There is political consensus in the country that it will not allow Israel to obstruct offshore drilling or an attack against it,” they added.

The repercussions of a war against Israel will be different than any other war in the past, they continued.

“We will not allow Israel to extract its gas, while it prevents us from drilling for our own gas and oil,” they declared.

Moreover, the sources said that an Israeli attack against Lebanon will mark the end of Lebanon’s policy of disassociation.

“This will inevitably lead Lebanon into the eye of the storm,” the sources stated.

Lebanese officials have, meanwhile, heeded Netanyahu’s warnings.

Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday said that his threats were not simply for made for the media, but “they are part of Israel’s policy of aggression.”

In February Beirut signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements with the Total-Eni-Novatek consortium for offshore Blocks 4 and 9.

Part of Block 9 contains waters disputed with neighboring Israel.

Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border dispute with Israel over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles) that extends along the edge of three of its total 10 blocks.

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