By KAREEM CHEHAYEB
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Sunday aired drone footage of Israeli ships in a disputed gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, highlighting the tension at the center of U.S.-mediated maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel.
The footage was aired as the U.S. energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, was landing in Beirut to mediate ongoing talks between Lebanon and Israel over their sea borders. Lebanon claims the Karish gas field is disputed territory under ongoing maritime border negotiations, whereas Israel says it lies within its internationally recognized economic waters.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib in a statement Friday said Hochstein will inform Lebanon of Israel’s response to Lebanon’s June proposal, adding that he was optimistic about reaching an agreement soon.
There was no immediate response to the video from Israel.
The footage aired on the Iran-backed party and militia’s Al-Manar television, showed barges from reconnaissance drones over the Karish gas field and their coordinates. It ended with footage of a rocket with the words “within range” in Arabic and Hebrew.
The Israeli military earlier this month shot down three Hezbollah unarmed drones flying over Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati criticized Hezbollah, saying the move could pose risks to the country.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in an interview last week said that the militant group can locate and strike Karish and any other Israeli gas field.
Following his last visit in June, Hochstein told U.S.-funded Al-Hurra television that the Lebanese government took “a very strong step forward” by presenting a more united approach, and anticipated that there could be progress to reach a settlement.
The two countries, which have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948, both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to exploit offshore gas reserves as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in its modern history.