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The leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon issued a warning to Israel about attempting to tap offshore gas reserves in disputed waters between the two countries, further complicating U.S. attempts to mediate the dispute.
“The hand that reaches for any of this wealth will be severed,” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, said during televised remarks in Beirut Tuesday, according to Radio France Internationale (RFI).
The warning comes as the U.S. has intensified efforts to resolve the maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon, two countries that have been in an official state of war for over 70 years. Both countries claim an over-300-square-mile stretch of the Mediterranean Sea subject to ongoing negotiations. Lebanon argues that the Karish gas field Israel claims is part of its internationally recognized waters.
Tensions between the two countries have flared over the summer, with Israel reporting that it had shot down three drones launched by Hezbollah that were reportedly bound for the Karish gas fields. Later in July Hezbollah released a video showing surveillance of Israeli-chartered ships, one bound for the same region.
Negotiations over the disputed region, which resumed in 2020 after stalling out during the 2006 war between the two countries, have picked up as Lebanon seeks to claw out of one of the worst economic crisis in its history. The country sees access to the offshore gas reserves as key to its recovery, with Nasrallah’s comments coming as Lebanon awaits a response from Israel to an offer to resolve the dispute that was submitted to U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein last month.
During his address, Nasrallah told viewers that “we are waiting for a response to the demands of the Lebanese state, and we will respond accordingly, but I tell you… we must be ready and prepared for all possibilities”
He made clear that Hezbollah stood ready to escalate the conflict should Israel ignore Lebanese demands.
“We will go all the way, so no one should try us,” Nasrallah said.
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