Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is raising the bar of the conflict with Israel. On July 2, 2022, Hizbullah launched three drones at Israel’s Karish gas rig in the eastern Mediterranean that were intercepted in Israel’s economic waters. Two days earlier, Hizbullah sent a drone that was intercepted in Lebanon’s territorial waters. In an official announcement, Hizbullah said the launch of the unarmed drones was meant to convey a message, and the message had been well understood in Israel.
Hizbullah did not specify what the message was. The editor of Al-Akhbar, Ibrahim Alamin, who is close to Nasrallah and known to echo his views, said Hizbullah’s message was no less than a warning to Israel to cease the current negotiations on demarcating the Karish field. Ibrahim Alamin claimed that even before the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon updated the Lebanese government on Israel’s response to Lebanon’s position, Hizbullah had been apprised by a Western source (France?) that Israel had rejected Lebanon’s stance and hence, Hizbullah chose to send a signal to Israel not to drag its feet and to accept the Lebanese proposal.
Until now, Hizbullah has avoided direct involvement in the negotiations on demarcating Lebanon’s territorial and economic borders, leaving the matter to the Lebanese government. Hizbullah stated that only after the Lebanese government determined its borders would Hizbullah defend Lebanese sovereignty.
It appears, then, that Hizbullah’s clear deviation from its traditional stance on this issue stemmed mainly from a desire to flaunt its power amid what it regards as the Lebanese government’s weakness on the Karish issue, as well as its readiness to risk raising the bar of the conflict with Israel. Nasrallah does not know what, if any, Israel’s response to his aggressive moves will be.
Meanwhile, Hizbullah has stepped up its activity along the border with Israel, setting up 15 military observation posts there under the guise of civilian activity. Hizbullah thereby blocks the Lebanese army and UNIFIL access to areas along the border, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Apparently, in light of the results of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, in which Hizbullah held on to its power but lost its majority, Hizbullah is showing that it is still the key political and military force in Lebanon. That was evident when it brought about the election of Nabih Berri as chairman of the parliament and Najib Mikati as prime minister. Hizbullah is now making clear that if the Lebanese state is unable to safeguard Lebanon’s natural resources, Hizbullah will do so even at the price of a possible limited military clash with Israel.