On July 2, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it had intercepted three drones launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah near the disputed Karish naval gas field.
In a statement, the IDF said that one of the drones was shot down by a F-16 fighter jet of the Israeli Air Force, while the other two were shot down with Barak missiles launched from the Israeli Navy’s Sa’ar 5-class corvette Eilat.
The drones were “identified at an early stage and monitored throughout their flight by air control units” and “intercepted at the most appropriate operational point”.
According to the IDF, a preliminary investigation shows that the drones did not pose a real threat at any point during their flight.
“The detection and alert systems functioned as required, embodying the concept of multi-layered air defense in the best possible manner in unison with the professional activities of the soldiers at sea and in the air who carried out the defensive mission with great success,” the IDF said in its statement.
The IDF released footage showing the interception of what appears to be Mirsad-type drones, Hezbollah’s own copy of the Iranian KAS-04.
The Lebanese-Israeli dispute over Karish heated up in June when the Greek-owned Energean Power FPSO [Floating Production Storage Offloading] reached the field to extract gas. Lebanon claims that at least a part of Karish is within its exclusive economic zone.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel in a recent speech against extracting gas from the disputed field.
The warning was met with harsh threats from senior Israeli officials. The IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi threatened Lebanon with “big strikes,” while Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Israeli troops “will march once again to Beirut, Sidon and Tyre”.
Despite the exchange of threats and warnings, US-backed talks on the demarcation of the naval borders between Lebanon and Israel saw some progress recently. Lebanon has reportedly agreed to drop claims on Karish likely in exchange for Israeli concessions on other parts of the disputed naval zone.
Hezbollah is yet to comment on the Karish drone incident. The group was likely attempting to harass the IDF, not to attack vessels operating at the gas field. Despite this, the IDF may respond in order to establish deterrence.
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