This Monday Lebanon’s caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister expanded the country’s maritime border dispute claims by 540sq miles, submitting a document to the United Nations to confirm it.
Indirect talks were held last year between Israel and Lebanon, causing a raised level of tensions between the two countries. This came after thousands of Israeli violations of Lebanon’s maritime border, land border and airspace, which the Lebanese government submitted various complaints to the UN over, last year. Israel had also submitted its own complaint to the UN after the fence between the border was damaged in various locations. Israel also uses Lebanese airspace, as a launching pad for its campaign of airstrikes on Syrian territory, in violation of international law.
The key areas disputed between Lebanon and Israel are allegedly home to natural gasses, and to Lebanon the dispute over what constitutes Lebanese territory is a non-negotiable issue. The issue also becomes more complex as Lebanese Hezbollah – which is not involved in the talks – vows to liberate all Lebanese territory, including the illegally occupied Lebanese Sheba’ Farms area.
In July of last year, unprovoked Israeli airstrikes on Damascus International Airport killed an off-duty member of Lebanese Hezbollah, Ali Kamel Mohsen. In response to this killing, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, vowed a response, which is yet to come. But when Nasrallah says something, he has historically always followed up with it; and a response to Israeli strikes against any Lebanese in Syria is a part of the rules set forth by Hezbollah since August of 2019.
If Israel is to lash out over the issue of Lebanon’s maritime border demands, Hezbollah will be ready to defend the country from any potential Israeli threat. Since the 2006 war, which resulted in an embarrassing defeat for the Israeli military, the Israeli government has been extremely hesitant when engaging Lebanon and this situation has managed to keep the country relatively free from attacks.
The timing of the escalation in the dispute over maritime borders is also an interesting one, coming just after Israeli Mossad – according to Israeli media sources – carried out a terrorist attack against Iran’s Natanz Nuclear facility.
Israeli aggression against Iran now seems to have also started a wave of retaliatory attacks. On Tuesday, an Israeli vessel named ‘Hypern’ was reportedly struck by either mines or a missile – according to Israeli media – near the Emirate of Fujairah, UAE. Later that same day, reports began to emerge from Iraq that Iranian-backed forces had reportedly attacked a Mossad base, killing and injuring multiple Israeli agents, according to reports from both PressTV and Iraq’s Al-Saberin news.
Also, the recent unprovoked Israeli airstrike, launched last Thursday against Syria, could prove a turning point for the Israel-Syria rules of engagement. After years of Syrian complaints to the United Nations having been ignored, Syria has developed its air defense capabilities. In 2018 Syria had responded to Israeli strikes by shooting down an Israeli fighter jet and another time had fired missiles into the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Since that time Syria has not committed any retaliatory strikes.
What Syria did achieve in 2018, was deterring frequent Israeli strikes and also forcing Israel from using Syrian airspace, as the threat was now of air defense systems capable of shooting down enemy warplanes. In the most recent Israeli attack, a Syrian anti-air missile had followed an Israeli jet across the Lebanese border and was reportedly in pursuit of the Israeli jet. The missile later fell in southern Lebanon, causing a loud explosion. What this has now shown, however, is that Israel’s jets will no longer be immune and can be targeted from further distances by air defense operators inside of Syria, and if Syria attempts this again, could prove successful at deterring Israeli strikes.
Israeli think-tanks have lately been discussing the possibility of a multi-front war, being brought on by the current government’s policy, and this is a type of war they fear. In fact, well known Israeli journalist Ben Caspit, recently wrote a piece for Al-Monitor in which he criticized Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s escalatory military strategy with Iran, for fear of how this may backfire.
In the case of a regional war, with Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Iran and perhaps Yemen, all going on the offensive against Israel, the only hope the Israelis have is the US government. Yet, in this scenario it is unlikely that even the United States could stop a massive military defeat being inflicted upon Israel.