Jul 2, 2022 - World

Israel says it downed 3 Hezbollah drones headed toward Karish gas rig

Israeli navy vessels patrol near the border between Israel and Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli navy vessels patrol near the border between Israel and Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Image

The Israeli military said Saturday it shot down three Hezbollah drones that were headed towards the Karish gas rig in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Why it matters: U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein is currently mediating between Israel and Lebanon on a deal to settle the maritime border dispute between the countries.

  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasralla has threatened to use force to prevent the Karish rig from producing natural gas, which is expected to start in 10 weeks.
  • Israel says the rig, which it has called a "strategic asset," is within its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone, and located south of the disputed area.

State of play: Hochstein told Israeli negotiators last week that he wanted to try to get a deal between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border dispute in the next two months, two Israeli officials told Axios.

  • Hochstein is concerned about a potential escalation and thinks the time left can be used as a window of opportunity when both sides will have an incentive to get a deal and avoid a flare-up, according to Israeli officials.

Driving the news: The Israeli military said in a statement that the three drones were detected on Saturday around noon local time as they were making their way from Lebanese airspace to the Israeli economic waters.

  • One drone was shot down by the fighter jet and two others by anti-aircraft missiles from an Israeli navy ship. The Israeli military said the drones were not armed and didn’t pose a substantial threat to the gas rig.
  • Hezbollah said later Saturday that it had launched three unarmed drones towards the disputed region with Israel on a reconnaissance mission and the message was delivered.

What they're saying: Senior IDF officials said in a briefing with reporters that the attempted attack by Hezbollah was meant to sabotage the U.S. mediation between Israel and Lebanon.

  • IDF officials said Hezbollah sent the drones to try and send a signal and to show it can “force a negotiation under fire” to try and pressure Israel to make concessions.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Hezbollah's statement.

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