Israel downs three Hezbollah drones flying toward Karish gas rig

Gantz warned that Israel is prepared to defend its infrastructure against any threat.

 London-based Energean's drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the east Mediterranean May 9, 2022. Picture taken May 9, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/Ari Rabinovitch)
London-based Energean's drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel in the east Mediterranean May 9, 2022. Picture taken May 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ari Rabinovitch)
The IDF shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles launched by Hezbollah (CREDIT: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IDF shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles launched by Hezbollah toward Israel’s economic waters over the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the three UAVs was shot down by an F-16 and two others were downed by the naval Barak 8 medium-range surface-to-air missile system on the INS Eilat, marking the first time the system was used against aerial threats.

The Barak-8 MR-SAM system is able to shoot down enemy aircraft at a range of 50-70 kilometers (32-43 miles). It is designed to defend naval vessels against a myriad of short- to long-range airborne threats, such as incoming missiles, planes and drones at both low or high altitudes.

The UAVs were identified at an early stage in their flight by the IDF, monitored throughout their flight and intercepted at the most appropriate operational point by the fighter jet and missile ship.

UAVs launched for 'propaganda purposes'

According to the preliminary investigation carried out by the military, the UAVs are not believed to have been armed and did not pose a real threat during their flight. It’s believed that they were launched by Hezbollah likely to fly over the Karish gas rig for propaganda purposes.

The drones were shot down several kilometers from the rig.

 View of the Israeli Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near the Israeli city of Caesarea, on January 31, 2019.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL) View of the Israeli Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near the Israeli city of Caesarea, on January 31, 2019. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL)

Following the incident, Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situational assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar, Naval Commander V.-Adm. David Saar Salame, Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, Operations Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Oded Basiuk and Political-Military Bureau head Dror Shalom.

Gantz warned that Israel is prepared to defend its infrastructure against any threat.

“The terror organization Hezbollah is preventing the State of Lebanon from reaching an agreement regarding maritime borders, which are critical to the economy and prosperity of the Lebanese nation,” he said. “This is despite the willingness of the State of Israel to move forward in the negotiations and to reach a solution on the issue.

“The State of Israel will continue to defend its assets. We are obligated and will preserve our right to operate and respond to any threat,” Gantz said.

"The State of Israel is prepared to defend its infrastructure in the face of any threat”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz

HEZBOLLAH SECRETARY-General Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to use force to prevent the Karish gas rig from producing natural gas, which is expected to start in several weeks. Israel sees the rig as a strategic asset several kilometers south of the area over which negotiations are being conducted, and has warned that it will defend it.

“The State of Israel prioritizes the protection of its strategic assets, and is prepared to defend them and the security of its infrastructure, all in accordance with its rights,” tweeted then-foreign minister Yair Lapid in early June.

“At the same time, we call on Lebanon to accelerate negotiations on the maritime border. Locating gas-based energy sources can greatly assist Lebanon’s economy & its citizens, & it is in the interest of Lebanon to advance the dialogue on this matter. We hope that this will occur,” he wrote.

Israel and Lebanon's maritime border dispute

In addition to being officially at war, Lebanon and Israel have an unresolved maritime border dispute over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq. km. that extends along several blocks for exploratory offshore drilling Lebanon put out for tender.

Beirut claims that Blocks 8 and 9 in the disputed maritime waters are in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone and parts of Block 9 run through waters that Israel claims as its own EEZ.

The navy is also tasked with securing the natural gas drilling rigs that are in Israel’s EEZ. These are clear targets for enemies on Israel’s northern border, such as Hezbollah, which has long-range missiles that can hit the rigs that supply a large amount of electricity consumed in the Jewish state.

Recently discovered oil and gas reserves off the shores of Lebanon and Israel are predicted to generate up to $600 billion over the next few decades.

According to a report on Axios.com, US energy envoy Amos Hochstein hopes to reach a deal between the two sides regarding the border dispute in the next two months. He is expected to join US President Joe Biden on his visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia next week and to hold meetings regarding the dispute.