The leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned the Lebanese government in Beirut not to succumb to American pressure on resolving a maritime border dispute with Israel, unless all of Lebanon’s demands are met. In a televised address to his followers, Nasrallah further asserted that his Iranian-backed group was ready to go to war with Israel if necessary, telling the Lebanese government to use the Shi’ite group’s military capacity as leverage, which should allow Beirut to take a “strong and firm” position on any disputes with Jerusalem. “We, as Lebanon, not specifically the resistance, if we are united, with the capabilities we have, we are strong and should negotiate accordingly. You as well are able to threaten Israel that is threatening you. If the Americans told you to be responsive with them in order to drive back Israel, you tell them listen to our demands so that we keep Hezbollah away from Israel,” Nasrallah said.
The United States has been mediating between Lebanon and Israel regarding a maritime border dispute, over a triangular area of sea of around 860 square-kilometers, that has raised tensions between Jerusalem and Beirut after the latter put up an offshore energy exploration tender, which drew participation of several international companies. The move has led to an exchange of threats and condemnations that raised concerns regarding a possible escalation between the two countries, a reality the United States is actively trying to prevent. That said, while the Lebanese leadership in Beirut indicated its willingness to cooperate with Washington’s mediation efforts, Hezbollah warned that the battle over the disputed maritime border was a battle for all of Lebanon; cautioning the government to stand firm amid Western pressures that could lead to undesirable and dangerous Lebanese concessions. In response to threat by Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri informed Washington that Lebanon rejected current U.S. proposals over the maritime border dispute with Israel.