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Lebanon should block Israel gas extraction move: Hezbollah chief

This file photo taken on June 3, 2022 and obtained from Egypt's Suez Canal Authority shows a tugboat pulling an Energean floating production storage and offloading ship along the Suez Canal
— Beirut (AFP)

Lebanon should block Israel from extracting gas from a disputed offshore field, Hezbollah chief 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.

Hezbollah 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 Shiite movement said, adding that Energean must assume "full responsibility" for its involvement.

Following the ship's arrival, Lebanese authorities on Monday called for US envoy Amos Hochstein to visit Beirut to relaunch maritime border negotiations.

Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said Hochstein was due to arrive in the coming days 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 UN-patrolled border.

They had resumed negotiations over their maritime frontier in 2020 but the process was stalled by Beirut's claim that the map used by the United Nations in the talks needed modifying.

Lebanon initially demanded 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area but then asked for an additional 1,430 square kilometres, including part of Karish.