Hezbollah Drones Shot Down by IDF Near Disputed Gas Field

On Saturday afternoon three Hezbollah drones were shot down by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) after they approached Israel’s economic waters.

In a statement published on Twitter, the IDF said a fighter jet and an Israeli Navy missile ship intercepted the drones over the Mediterranean Sea.

“An IAF fighter jet and an Israeli Navy missile ship intercepted 3 hostile UAVs from Lebanon which approached the airspace over Israel’s economic waters today,” the tweet said.

Hezbollah later published a statement claiming credit for launching the drones and said they were on a reconnaissance mission to the disputed Karish gas field.

“The group of the martyrs Jamil Skaf and Mahdi Yaghi launched three unarmed drones of different sizes towards the disputed area at the Karish field to carry out reconnaissance missions,” the statement read.

Hezbollah’s statement is similar to previous publications taking credit for military operations against Israel. The groups Skaf and Yahghi are in reference to Hezbollah militants who were killed in southern Lebanon in 1994 and Syria in 2013, respectively.

The Karish gas field has been a source of tension between Lebanon and Israel. Karish is located on the boundary of a disputed maritime border between the two countries. Israel claims the gas field is in its maritime waters while Lebanon unofficially claims part of Karish in its boundary.

Complicating matters are threats made by Hezbollah. In early May, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning saying it would respond if Israel prevented Lebanon from drilling oil and gas in the disputed area.

Hezbollah’s provocation on Saturday can be viewed as a warning to Israel and energy companies that it has the capability of disrupting gas and oil extractions in the disputed area by military means. While the IDF was successful in destroying the drones before they reached Israel’s maritime waters, Hezbollah will likely market the operation as a propaganda victory by saying Nasrallah carried out the warning he made in May.

As previously noted by the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, Israel is in negotiations with the European Union on exporting gas to Europe. Due to sanctions on Russia, Israel is preparing to double its output of gas to meet the needs of its clients.

A military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah over the disputed Karish gas field could jeopardize negotiations and cause a considerable financial loss for Israel and Lebanon.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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