The Israeli army said on Saturday July 2 that it had shot down three Lebanese Hezbollah drones which it said were heading towards a gas field in the Mediterranean, at the heart of an upsurge in tensions in recent weeks between Israel and Lebanon.

"Three drones approaching Israel's economic waters have been intercepted," the military said in a statement, adding that the unmanned craft had been launched by Hezbollah and were heading towards the Karish offshore field.

The armed Hezbollah movement shortly after confirmed the launch of "three unarmed drones in the direction of the disputed Karish field for reconnaissance missions".

"The mission has been accomplished," he said in a statement, without mentioning the interception of the drones.

According to the Israeli army, the drones were shot down before approaching the gas field.

One drone was intercepted by a fighter jet, and the other two by a warship, Israeli military sources said.

A gas field at the center of tensions

The discovery in recent years of vast gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetite of the neighboring countries and fueled border disputes.

Lebanon and Israel, two neighboring countries officially still in a state of war, began unprecedented negotiations in October 2020 under the aegis of Washington to delimit their maritime border, in order to remove obstacles to hydrocarbon prospecting.

But talks were suspended in May 2021 following disputes over the surface of the disputed area including the Karish gas field. 

For the Jewish state, the Karish field is located in Israeli territory “several kilometers from the area on which the negotiations relate” with Lebanon, which also suggests an analysis of satellite images carried out by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

For Beirut, this deposit is in disputed waters.

>> Offshore gas: the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel at the heart of new tensions

Tensions resurfaced in early June with the arrival at the Karish field of a ship chartered on behalf of the Jewish state by the British exploration company Energean Plc.

This incident comes the day after the assumption of duties in Israel by centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who officially succeeded Naftali Bennett on Friday.

"I stand before you and say to all those who want us gone, from Gaza to Tehran, from the sides of Lebanon to Syria: do not test us! Israel knows how to use its force against any threat and against any enemy," he said. said Yaïr Lapid on Saturday evening in his first speech as Prime Minister. 

With AFP

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