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Hezbollah says will 'sever' Israel's hands if it reaches for disputed gas

— Beirut (AFP)

Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah warned Israel on Tuesday against reaching for offshore gas reserves at a time US-mediated talks are aiming to settle a maritime border dispute.

"The hand that reaches for any of this wealth will be severed," Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shiite Muslim political and military movement, told supporters in southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold.

"Lebanon's oil, gas and water resources must remain under its control and no one should be allowed to rob the country," he said in his televised speech marking the Shiite mourning ritual of Ashura.

The dispute escalated in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near the Karish offshore field, which is partly claimed by Lebanon.

This prompted Beirut to call for the resumption of US-mediated negotiations, while Nasrallah has responded by repeatedly launching threats.

On July 2, Israel said it had downed three drones launched by Hezbollah that were headed towards Karish.

That same month, the movement released a video it said showed surveillance of several Israeli-chartered ships, including the production vessel sent to Karish.

Nasrallah's comments on Tuesday came as Lebanon awaits a response from Israel to an offer on the border dispute it submitted to US mediator Amos Hochstein last month.

Nasrallah said that "we are waiting for a response to the demands of the Lebanese state, and we will respond accordingly, but I tell you ... we must be ready and prepared for all possibilities.

"We will go all the way, so no one should try us."

Lebanon and Israel, which fought their last war in 2006, had resumed maritime border negotiations in 2020 but the process had been stalled until the latest developments revived negotiations in June.

Hochstein told a Lebanon broadcaster this month that he is working towards a solution that would allow Israel to continue operations in Karish while also allowing Lebanon to enter the energy market.

An Israeli official last month said Israel's offer would allow Lebanon to develop the so-called Sidon reservoir, also known as the Qana field, which is located in the disputed zone.

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