Photo: Reuters

Lebanon accuses Israel of sea violations

Israel has adamantly denied the allegations.

By Erin Viner

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) announced that its territorial waters were breached four times on Saturday by Israeli military gunboats.

The alleged incidents occurred in an area opposite Ras Naqoura near the frontier between the two warring states, said the LAF, penetrating Lebanese maritime waters by several hundred meters. Beirut authorities reportedly said they are discussing the violations with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping force.

There “was no crossing of Lebanese maritime border” by its forces, insisted an Israeli military statement.

Lebanon has previously filed formal complaints with the United Nations Security Council over alleged violations of its airspace with overflights by military reconnaissance drone and jet aircraft.

Israel has also reportedly launched airstrikes on Iranian targets in neighboring Syria by flying fighter planes via Lebanese airspace.

The two countries, which remain in a formal state of war, make a landmark breakthrough in relations just last week, by signaling approval of a United-States-brokered agreement laying out their respective maritime rights to the Mediterranean Sea.

If finalized by their mutual governments, the historic achievement would mark a diplomatic departure from decades of hostility as well as opening the door to offshore energy exploration.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared that his group will closely monitor developments until the signing of any agreement with Israel.

“For us, when the Lebanese officials and the president announce the official Lebanese stance that agrees with this agreement and understanding, things would be done for the resistance (Hezbollah). But until then, we will remain vigilant,” Nasrallah said during a taped address to his followers from an undisclosed bunker in Beirut.

While the Hezbollah leader alluded to benefits expected to emerge from the maritime agreement for his internationally recognized terror organization; the US will reportedly provide written security-related guarantees to Israel, explicitly ruling out that any financial windfall from future Lebanese offshore gas exploration would be funneled to Hezbollah.