Tensions rise as Israeli drilling vessel arrives in disputed waters

Tensions rise as Israeli drilling vessel arrives in disputed waters
Israel is working to protect an offshore platform that will start drilling for gas in disputed waters near Lebanon, in light of rising tensions.
3 min read
06 June, 2022
Lebanon and Israel have been locked in dispute for many years over energy-rich maritime territory [Getty]

Israel is working to protect an offshore drilling platform from a potential Hezbollah strike after a vessel arrived in disputed waters on Sunday, Israeli media reported, as Lebanese were left in outrage over what was described as an attempted theft of gas.

Israeli broadcaster Kan said the army was preparing for a possible attack by the Lebanon-based and Iranian-backed Hezbollah group – which Israel has fought several wars with –after a ship arrived about 80 km off the coast of Haifa to produce gas for Israel.

London-based Energean said it would be at least three months before gas is extracted.

While security of the platform is the company’s task, Israel is responsible for ensuring its security in its waters, Kan reported, adding that Israeli security services have conducted two assessments of the situation in light of heightening tensions with Lebanon.

The Israeli navy will work to secure the protection of the platform in the sea with the help of submarines and an Iron Dome, local media said.

Hezbollah has previously warned Israel against drilling for oil and gas in the disputed area until the issue is resolved, and said the group would take action if it did so.

Israel says the field in question is within its exclusive economic zone and not in disputed waters.

However Lebanese officials on Sunday, including the president and prime minister, warned against Israeli provocations and said any plans to begin drilling for offshore energy would amount to an act of aggression.

Lebanese flooded social media on Sunday to express their anger over what they called incompetence on the Lebanese government’s side for not acting earlier, accusing officials of "treason" for allowing Israel "to steal Lebanon’s gas."

Both Israel and Lebanon have made claims at the United Nations regarding their maritime border. Lebanon says its border cuts into the sea at an angle farther south and Israel's claim runs farther north, creating a triangle of disputed waters.

Last year, Beirut expanded its claim by around 1,400 square km (540 square miles), enlarging the area disputed with Israel.

The US has been mediating indirect talks between the sides for years to settle the long-running dispute between the enemy states that has obstructed energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.