Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah on Sunday warned Israel against developing “a single metre” of disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean to search for offshore gas deposits.
The Lebanese government, which is dominated by Hezbollah, will restore the sovereignty of our waters in their entirety,” said Mohammed Raad, head of the Hezbollah group in parliament, the state news agency ANI reported.
“The Israeli enemy cannot drill a single metre in these waters to search for gas and oil if the zone is disputed… No company can carry out prospecting work in waters whose sovereignty is contested,” he said.
Hezbollah in 2006 fought a deadly war with the Jewish state in which most of Lebanon’s major infrastructure was destroyed.
Last week, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansur said the maritime border as proposed by Israel posed a threat to regional security.
The proposed frontier cuts through Lebanon’s economic zone, he said, adding that Beirut would “turn to the United Nations.”
The feud over offshore gas fields has deepened since Israel’s cabinet on July 12 approved a map of the country’s proposed maritime borders with Lebanon to be submitted for a UN opinion.
The proposed map lays out maritime borders that conflict significantly with those suggested by Lebanon in its own submission to the United Nations.
Lebanon’s Energy Minister Gibran Bassil has said Beirut will not give up its maritime rights, and accused Israel of “violations of (Lebanese) waters, territory and airspace, and today our oil rights.”
Israel has for months been moving to develop several large offshore natural gas fields, some which are shared with Cyprus, that it hopes could help it to become an energy exporter.
But its development plans have stirred controversy with Lebanon, which argues the gas fields lie inside its territorial waters.
Israel does not have officially demarcated maritime borders with Lebanon, and the two nations remain technically at war.