Hezbollah vows "escalation" if Lebanon's demands aren't met in border dispute with Israel
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah intensified his threats against Israel on Friday, saying if Lebanon's demands aren't met in the maritime border dispute between the two countries, there will be an escalation regardless of whether there is a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran.
Why it matters: Hezbollah has set a mid-September deadline for a resolution in the maritime border dispute, the group's newspaper, Al-Akhbar, wrote earlier this week.
- Nasrallah appeared to want to convey that he won’t be restrained by Iranian pressure if the government in Tehran wants to maintain calm in the region in order to reach a nuclear agreement.
Catch up quick: Over the last year, U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein has been trying to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a potential gas-rich, 330-square-mile disputed area of the Mediterranean Sea. The estimated value of the area reaches billions of dollars.
- The Karish rig, a major gas project that Israel says is located south of the disputed area, is expected to come online this September and Nasrallah has turned this into a red line.
- Israel downed three Hezbollah drones headed toward the rig last month, while Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened war.
What they're saying: “If the U.S. mediator comes and gives us what the Lebanese state is asking for then we are heading towards calm whether there is a nuclear deal or not. But if the Lebanese state doesn’t get what it demands we are going for an escalation," Nasrallah said on Friday.
- The Hezbollah leader added that the organization is “keeping an eye” on the U.S. envoy who Nasrallah claims “is taking his time but his time is running out."
Between the lines: A senior Israeli military official told the Washington Post last week that the group’s recent activities along the countries’ border are a “major change” from what the Israeli military has seen in the previous few years.
- “Hezbollah is becoming very, very blatant,” the official said.
State of play: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday that Hochstein has remained “engaged” with both parties since leaving the region over two weeks ago.
What’s next: Hochstein is expected to return to Lebanon in late August to continue negotiations, according to the Lebanese press.
- Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata will travel to Washington next week to meet with his White House counterpart Jake Sullivan.
- Israeli officials said the maritime border dispute with Lebanon and Hezbollah’s threats will be one of the main issues that will be discussed.