Lebanon should block Israel from extracting gas from the disputed offshore field, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday, warning a hydrocarbon exploration company hired by Israel against proceeding with its activities.
"The immediate objective should be to prevent the enemy from extracting oil and gas from the Karish gas field," part of which is claimed by Lebanon, Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Hizbullah will not "stand by and do nothing in the face of (Israel's) looting of Lebanon's natural wealth... which is the only hope for the salvation of the Lebanese people," he warned.
Nasrallah's remarks are his first since a gas production vessel operated by London-listed Energean Plc arrived in the Karish gas field on Sunday. He said extraction should halt pending the completion of maritime border negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, and warned Energean against proceeding.
The company "should pull out its ship immediately and avoid getting involved in this aggression and provocation against Lebanon," the head of the powerful Iran-backed movement said, adding that Energean must assume "full responsibility" for its involvement.
“The resistance has the technical ability to prevent the enemy from extracting gas from Karish and I will not say how,” Nasrallah added. “All of the enemy's measures will not be able to protect the Greek ship or the Karish field,” he warned.
Nasrallah, however, stressed that “Lebanon needs a unified and major popular stance” to support any move. “When the enemy sees the vast majority of the Lebanese people clinging to this fortune, its calculations will become different,” he said.
“If the state picks the choice of negotiations, the state, the resistance, the army and the people should stand by the Lebanese negotiating team to strengthen its stance and give it strength,” Nasrallah added.
“The resistance does not claim that it is the sole protector of Lebanon; that's why we call for the army-people-resistance equation,” he went on to say. “All of the resistance's options are on the table without hesitation.
Noting that “resistance is one of the choices that the Lebanese state and people have in this confrontation over the oil fortune,” Hizbullah’s leader added, "if the enemy understands that this is a unifying national cause, we might not be obliged to engage in an adventure.”
Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said Hochstein was due to arrive “on Sunday or Monday,” but there has been no official confirmation from Washington.
On Thursday, President Michel Aoun said that Lebanon would ask Hochstein to "resume efforts to relaunch indirect negotiations" with Israel.
Lebanon wants a deal that would allow it to "invest in its offshore oil and gas resources and safeguard security and stability in the border area," Aoun said in a statement.
His comments came a day after Israel restated its view that Karish "is a strategic asset of the state of Israel" and stressed it was "prepared to defend" the site.
Lebanon and Israel last fought a war in 2006, have no diplomatic relations and are separated by a U.N.-patrolled border. They had resumed negotiations over their maritime frontier in 2020 but the process was stalled by Lebanon’s claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.
Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometers, including part of Karish.