Hezbollah issues new threats over the Karish offshore gas rig

What happened: The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, gave an interview on Monday to his own affiliated TV channel al-Mayadeen, where he increased the rhetorical threats against Israel.

  • He warned: “If the extraction of oil and gas from Karish begins in September before Lebanon obtains its right, we would be heading to a problem and we’ll do anything to achieve our objective.”
  • He further warned Israel that “all fields are under threat, not only Karish,” adding that “no Israeli target at sea or on land is out of the reach of the resistance’s precision missiles”. For more information on Hezbollah’s precision-missile project, read our BICOM briefing.
  • Relating to their capability, he boasted: “We have drones that can evade the enemy, a number of drones in recent years entered parts of the Galilee and returned without being shot down.
  • “The ball now is not in Lebanon’s court, because it is the party barred from extracting oil and gas in the undisputed area, and what’s needed is to abide by the limits demanded by the Lebanese state and to lift the veto off the companies that will extract the oil.”
  • He continued, “I tell the Lebanese people that they should be confident in the resistance’s capabilities … we have not asked anyone to join a future war on our side but it is not known if other forces might join such a war and this is a strong probability.”
  • In response, yesterday Israel sent messages via US and French diplomats and the UN that any attack by Hezbollah will elicit a forceful Israeli response.

Context: Nasrallah continues to face mounting internal pressure due to the dire economic situation inside Lebanon. He is concerned that Hezbollah is not perceived exclusively as an Iranian proxy, but also as the defender of Lebanon. In this context, he highlighted his credentials as a Lebanese patriot during the interview with al-Mayadeen.

  • His reference to ‘other forces’ could include growing coordination between Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as other Iranian proxy organisations in southern Syria, who are attempting to build a military presence and open up another front against Israel by launching attacks from the Syrian Golan.
  • There have been three recent attempts to use drones to infiltrate into Israel. On two occasions the drones were heading for the Karish off shore gas platform.  All of these recent attempts were thwarted by Israeli defence systems.
  • Despite Nasrallah’s threats, Israel maintains that the Karish gas field is located south of the disputed Israel-Lebanon maritime boarder. That position is supported by the US, which continues to try and mediate and reach agreement on the Israel-Lebanon maritime border.
  • There are two interpretations for Nasrallah’s bellicose rhetoric at this time. Firstly as posturing, if an agreement is reached, he can claim that the achievement was made possible due to his threats. Secondly, that he is actually preparing for a military confrontation in September.
  • Israeli security experts always take Nasrallah’s threats seriously. Although he made efforts to present himself as the defender of Lebanon, Hezbollah with 120,000+ missiles remain the most potent Iranian proxy. It could be that he was acting on Iranian instructions.
  • Hezbollah is considered a terror organisation by UK, US, and the Arab League.  However, when asked yesterday leader of Joint List MK Ayman Odeh refused to declare them as such, instead insisting that Israel was a terror state due to the ongoing occupation of the West Bank.

Looking ahead: US mediator Amos Hochstein is expected to return to Beirut on July 31, hoping to advance an agreement over the disputed maritime border.

  • The September deadline Nasrallah referred to relates to when the Karish platform is expected to become operational.
  • If the issue is resolved, the energy company TotalEnergies has said they stand ready to search and produce natural gas and oil in Lebanese water.

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