An Israeli military observation tower overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and part of the maritime border with Lebanon, is seen near Rosh Hanikra, in northern Israel October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
The Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah broadcast a clip threatening a Mediterranean gas field off the Israeli coast on Sunday, as an American envoy traveled to Beirut to discuss maritime boundary negotiations with Jerusalem.
The Hezbollah clip features apparent footage of vessels at Karish — an offshore gas field that Israel has said is firmly within its exclusive economic zone, and which Lebanon maintains is in disputed waters.
The vessels in the video, including an FPSO platform that arrived in Israel in June, are overlaid with crosshairs and coordinates.
The clip also offers a glimpse of a missile identified by Israeli media as the “Noor,” a long-range anti-ship cruise missile produced by Iran as a variant of the Chinese-made C-802.
Iran has supplied anti-ship and coastal defense cruise missiles to Hezbollah and Houthi militants in Yemen, with the latter deploying them against American and Emirati ships in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Hezbollah struck an Israeli Navy corvette in 2006 with what was likely a C-802 missile, killing four crew members.
The clip concludes after a minute and 16 seconds with the words “within range” in Hebrew and Arabic. It was shared on the Hezbollah-owned TV station Al-Manar on the same day that the US State Department’s senior advisor for energy security, Amos Hochstein, traveled to Beirut.
Hochstein has been facilitating negotiations between Israel and Lebanon to delineate a maritime border and end tensions over offshore energy assets. Israel recently presented Hochstein with a proposal for the boundary, according to local media, with Energy Minister Karine Elharrar calling it “a serious offer.”
Joe Truzman, a research analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that with Sunday’s video, “Hezbollah is sending a message to Israel and companies working with it that it can target the disputed gas field if a deal is not made.”
Hezbollah has repeatedly threatened Israel over the maritime issue, and sent several drones towards the Karish gas field that were intercepted by the Israeli military earlier this month. Weeks later, the Israeli military downed a drone that crossed into its territory from Lebanon, saying it “likely belongs” to Hezbollah.
The following day, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed there “will be no oil extraction across the Israeli entity if Lebanon does not obtain its rights.” He said the Iran-backed group is “escalating our rhetoric” to pressure the Israelis and Americans, as “the course of the collapse in Lebanon” — which is in the midst of a severe economic crisis — is “continuing.”
Commercial production is slated to begin in Karish in September. It is expected to fulfill about half of Israel’s natural gas demand and enable an increase in exports to Egypt and Jordan.