Hezbollah ready to defend Lebanon’s natural resources: Official
Any defensive action hinges on the government defining Lebanon's maritime borders in US-led negotiations
By News Desk - June 06 2022

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem in an interview with Reuters in Beirut on 6 June 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Aziz Taher)

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters on 6 June that the Lebanese resistance movement stands ready to defend the country’s natural resources as soon as the government clarifies Lebanon’s maritime borders.

“When the Lebanese state says that the Israelis are assaulting our waters and our oil, then we are ready to do our part in terms of pressure, deterrence, and use of appropriate means – including force,” Qassem declared.

The Lebanese state remains in the midst of indirect, US-brokered negotiations with Israel over maritime border demarcations, with three different lines as options: the Lebanese, the UN, and the Israeli lines.

The Israeli line would take up all of the energy resources found off the coast, both the Karish gas field and the field in Block 9, denying crisis-hit Lebanon from accessing vast amounts of wealth and resources.

“Negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime borders are still ongoing, and any action or activity in the disputed area constitutes a provocation and a hostile act,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced on 5 June.

Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati also condemned the move, stating that “Israeli attempts to create a new crisis by encroaching on Lebanon’s water wealth, and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area to which Lebanon has rights, is extremely dangerous, and would cause unimaginable tensions.”

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elias Bou Saab, has requested that US envoy in the maritime negotiations Amos Hochstein plan a visit to Beirut to resolve the issue before drilling takes place.

Hochstein was born in Israel and has ties to energy groups that seek to profit from the resources in the Mediterranean. He also served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and took part in the occupation of Lebanon.

Indirect maritime border negotiations have been on hold for months, after Hochstein offered the US ambassador in Beirut, Dorothy Shea, the role of mediator in the negotiations.

“Stop betting on the foreigner who is greedy for our wealth and the broker who promotes deals. Let’s extract oil and gas as we want and with whomever we want whenever we want,” says MP Mohammad Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc.

According to a top Hezbollah official, the US is preventing Lebanon from drilling and extracting offshore crude oil and natural gas from its territorial waters.

“The US is the main opponent to Lebanon’s extraction of its crude oil reserves and to the enjoyment its own national wealth,” the head of the resistance group’s Executive Council, Hashem Saffieddine, said during a ceremony in the southern town of Al-Ansariah on 5 June.

The gas extraction vessel, Energean Power, docked in the disputed waters on 5 June with the aim of constructing a rig in the Karish gas field on behalf of an Israeli firm.

The Karish gas field is in Lebanese territorial waters according to line 29, but Israel claims it is within its rights according to UN line number 23, although in the negotiation process Israel claimed all the way up to line number 1.

Lebanon claims line 29 as its maritime border, the UN claims line 23, and Israel claims line 1. (Photo credit unknown)

Israeli naval ships equipped with Iron Dome interceptors, and submarines are protecting the Energean Power ship in case of retaliation by the Lebanese resistance, according to Israeli N12 News.

During a speech given on 20 May, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged the Lebanese state to begin extracting the energy resources within its territorial waters.

“Extracting oil is our opportunity for getting ourselves out of the crisis we are in, unlike begging and asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans,” the Hezbollah leader said.

To date, the Lebanese government has ignored offers from Russia, China, and Iran for assistance in the field of energy.

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