Reportedly, this past Saturday the Israeli military fired upon and brought down a group of three Hezbollah drones that were attempting to target offshore gas rigs located in heavily disputed Mediterranean waters.
Israeli officials stated that the drones were sent out from Lebanon and were officially taken down by a squad of Israeli fighter jets alongside ship-based missiles. Hezbollah responded with a short statement of its own that officially confirmed that it had made use of unarmed drones for a recon mission.
“The mission was accomplished and the message was received,” stated Hezbollah.
The previously mentioned territorial dispute concerns the Karish gas fields, which Israel states sit squarely within its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone, however, Lebanon also states that they have ownership of parts of the territory. Isreal built up a new rig out in the Karish gas fields just last month. Lebanon seems to be hoping to exploit the offshore gas reserves from the area in order to help hold up its economy, which is currently dealing with one of the most horrific economic crises in recent history.
Amos Hochstein, the U.S. energy envoy, has been trying to mediate between the two nations in order to try and resolve the historic dispute. Just last week, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, issued a threat to Israel by claiming they would stop their operations around the rig by force if necessary.
Benny Gantz, the Israeli Defense Minister, issued their own response by condemning the actions of the Islamist group, making the argument that the use of such tactics was “preventing the state of Lebanon from reaching an agreement regarding maritime borders, which are critical to the economy and prosperity of the Lebanese nation.”
Lebanon and Israel have been at war officially since back in 2006, when Hezbollah, which is a Shia militant group and ally of Iran and arguably more powerful than the actual government of Lebanon, captured and attempted to sell off two Israeli soldiers. Despite the fact that there was later a ceasefire, extreme hostilities have still flared up intermittently throughout recent history, with many skirmishes taking place along the border and heavy artillery and rocket fire being used by both nations quite frequently.
Reportedly, Israel states that Hezbollah is its most immediate threat, and thinks that the Iranian-allied terror group holds well over 150,000 rockets that are aimed at Israeli territory and citizens.
The escalating tensions come at a time of heavy domestic political upheaval for the Jewish state. A heavily left-leaning coalition government led by Naftali Bennet, the first in recent history to sport an Arab part, recently fell apart in the wake of its threadbare majority of just 60 votes in the Knesset, which became untenable. Bennet cried out for a new election for the fall, which could end up allowing the heavily controversial former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a way to get back into power. Currently, Yair Lapid, who is Bennett’s alternate minister, is leading the interim government.