Tensions high after IDF downs Hezbollah drones heading toward Israeli gas rig

July 3, 2022 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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An Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16 fighter jet and an Israeli Navy missile ship intercepted three drones that were flying from Lebanon and approached the airspace over Israel’s economic waters on Saturday, in an apparent attempt to target the new Karish gas rig.

The Israeli Navy patrols near the Karish gas rig.           Photo: IDF Jul-2

The rig was deployed in recent weeks.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) were identified by IDF detection systems and monitored by ground control units throughout their flight, the IDF noted, and were identified at an early stage and intercepted “at the optimal operational point.”

The IDF further noted that its initial inquiry suggests that the UAVs did not pose “any imminent threat” and were intercepted over the Mediterranean Sea.

“The detection and alert systems functioned as required. This embodies the concept of multi-layered air defence in the best possible manner in unison with the professional activities of the soldiers at sea and in the air who successfully carried out the defensive mission,” the IDF stated.

Barak surface-to-air missiles were deployed for the first time, successfully meeting and destroying their targets.

Hezbollah issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack.

“The two martyrs Jamil Skaf and Mahdi Yaghi group launched three unarmed drones of different sizes towards the disputable area to carry out reconnaissance missions,” the statement said, claiming that “the mission was completed and the messages were delivered,” and concluding with the Koranic verse “Victory comes only from Allah”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz conducted a situation assessment Saturday evening together with IDF Chief of the General Staff Aviv Kochavi, head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, Head of the Operations Directorate, the Navy Commander, the IAF Commander, and Head of the Policy and Political-Military Bureau in the Ministry of Defense, following the incident.

“The State of Israel is prepared to defend its infrastructure against any threat. The Hezbollah terrorist organization 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. 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,” he stated.

The attack comes as Israel and Lebanon are negotiating the maritime border between the two countries, as the common Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary is not agreed upon between the two countries. The issue has been under discussion for over a decade. The focus of both sides is the oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters which are under dispute.

The attack also came hours after an airstrike in Syria near the town of Al-Hamidiyah attributed to Israel, reportedly against weapons meant for Hezbollah, wounded two civilians. The strike was conducted from the Mediterranean Sea, west of Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli. Al-Hamidiyah is located south of the port of Tartus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the facility that was struck was used by Hezbollah to store weapons.

The IDF has yet to respond to the drone attack, and tensions along the border with Lebanon remain high.

Tamir Hayman, Managing Director of Israel National Security Studies (INSS) and former head of IDF Intelligence corps, explained that the dilemma facing Israeli decision-makers is between four main options.

The first option is not responding because no damage was done in the attack and the incident can be considered an Israeli success, but this may lead to further similar attempts by Hezbollah to attack Israel.

Israel can conduct a retaliatory strike on a site in Lebanon, but that could lead to an escalation. A third option is to hit a Hezbollah target in Syria, exacting a price, but illustrating Israel’s unwillingness and fear to attack inside Lebanon.

A fourth possibility is a “strike of perception,” meaning a cyberattack, supersonic booms, or similar strategic messages, meaning there is no risk of escalation, but this may be perceived as weakness.

AAP reports:

In a statement, the Israeli said the aircraft were spotted early on and did not pose an “imminent threat.” Nonetheless, the incident drew a stern warning from Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid.

“I stand before you at this moment and say to everyone seeking our demise, from Gaza to Tehran, from the shores of Lebanon to Syria: Don’t test us,” Lapid said in his first address to the nation since taking office on Friday. “Israel knows how to use its strength against every threat, against every enemy.”

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