A sea-based Iron Dome air defense system is seen guarding the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, on 2 July, 2022. (Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces)
In a statement on Twitter by Energean on 9 October, the company announced the start of specific testing procedures onboard the floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) ship, commencing the operations at Karish.
The tests will focus on assessing the system’s integrity connecting the platform at sea to the Israeli gas infrastructure on land. The company will pump gas, on a trial basis from the shore through the underwater pipeline towards the drilling station.
During the trials, the compressor turbines will be activated to monitor the pressure at the FPSO and along the pipeline – however, the gas reservoir will not be accessed.
If all goes as planned, and if Israel decides to disregard the negotiations with Lebanon, it will start extracting gas for sale on the international market by 31 October, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
The decision to start the trials comes after a series of delays at the orders of the Israeli security establishment, which assessed that disregarding the negotiations with Lebanon could lead to an armed conflict with Hezbollah.
In an interview on the evening of 8 October with Israeli Channel 12 TV, Defense Minister Benny Gantz was the first to break the news that trials will commence, sending a message to both the Israeli public and Hezbollah.
Gantz threatened the Lebanese resistance group by saying that any attack on the Karish gas platform would lead to a severe blow, informing the Israeli public that Tel Aviv will not allow the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, to dictate its actions.
“Israel will defend itself resolutely if Hezbollah attacks from air, sea, or on land. If things develop into a broader conflict, we will take Lebanon apart,” threatened Gantz.
Ten days ago, the Israeli army chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi presented his French counterpart, Thierry Burkhard, with aerial photos and maps of the hundreds of sites Israel plans to attack in the event of a conflict with Lebanon.
The explicit threat was an attempt to get France to pressure Lebanon into accepting a deal. The message was relayed to Hezbollah after Burckhardt met with his Lebanese counterpart on 1 October.
Nonetheless, Gantz was vocal about his government’s support for a deal with Lebanon, reiterating that “if we reach a deal with the Lebanese government it will be good for both sides. It will be good for stability and serve all players.”
On the other hand, Hezbollah continues to monitor the situation, awaiting the conclusion of the negotiations between Lebanon and Israel under the mediation of the US.
For Hezbollah, the red line that would prompt a military response is production at Karish, and not trials, which Israeli media went to great heights to clarify in order to avoid any escalation.
Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz that if Lapid yields to the pressure from Netanyahu and decides not to sign a deal with Lebanon, the prime minister will be leading Israel into the Third Lebanon War.