Israel warned of the possibility of a war with Lebanon if Hezbollah carried out its threats to prevent work on a gas extraction platform in a disputed area in the Mediterranean.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in an interview with Radio 103 FM in Tel Aviv on Monday: “I believe that in the future, there will be two gas platforms. One on our side, one on theirs. And I hope that we do not have to go through another round of confrontations before then.”
He continued: “I believe that [Hezbollah] is not interested in an agreement to demarcate the borders between the two sides. However, if [the party] tries to carry out the threat of [its leader Hassan] Nasrallah that he will not let Israel extract gas in the event of not reaching an agreement on the demarcation of the maritime borders, then attacking an Israeli platform may lead to a day of fighting that could develop into several combat days, and this may lead to war. There will be a tragedy for the state of Lebanon and its citizens.”
Sources in Tel Aviv had pointed to tangible progress in the ongoing US-brokered negotiations on the border demarcation. The sources talked about the possibility of Israel ceding a section inside the sea, in exchange for a Lebanese abandoning an area closer to the shore.
On Sunday evening, Israeli Channel 12 said that Israeli security officials feared that Nasrallah would seek to provoke Israel again, “in the hope of obtaining Israeli concessions,” noting that the two sides were about to sign an agreement.
Sources in Beirut, however, denied the news and said that they were not aware of such mutual concessions.
For his part, the former head of the Military Intelligence Division in the Israeli army, Amos Yadlin, warned Sunday that Hezbollah was becoming “overconfident in its provocations… and was at risk of overplaying its hand and sparking a conflict with Israel, similar to the buildup ahead of the last war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.”
On Monday, reinforcements and masses of Israeli forces were seen on high alert on the northern border with Lebanon.
In Beirut, the media office of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elias Bou Saab, issued a statement, saying that he had a lengthy conversation on Monday afternoon with US mediator Amos Hochstein, over the course of the maritime negotiations.