On July 2, Hizballah flew three drones at low altitudes over the Karish natural-gas field in the Mediterranean, which is the subject of a dispute between Israel and Lebanon. An Israeli jet and warship promptly shot them down. Most likely, writes Ron Ben-Yishai, the Iran-backed terrorist group launched them in response to an IDF attack on targets in Syria earlier the same day. But the incident has wider significance:
The Karish gas field, inside Israel’s territorial waters, is a point of contention between Jerusalem and Beirut, with the United States acting as mediator in the dispute in the past few months. Hizballah, by targeting the field, was sending a message to the Lebanese government to stand firm and to demand that the maritime border between the countries be moved south to include Karish and other potential gas reservoirs in Lebanese [coastal waters].
Through its actions, Hizballah was likely aiming to achieve not only Iranian goals, but the group’s own objectives. By increasing tension around the maritime border dispute, it might succeed in discouraging foreign companies from investing there, which might sway the U.S. to take a position more favorable for Hizballah.
The drones were unarmed, by all indications, and were sent to photograph the gas rig and embarrass Israel by exhibiting Hizballah’s ability to attack it, as well as prove that Israeli assets were exposed at a time of political instability and just ahead of the visit to the area by President Joe Biden.
But the Iran-backed group’s objectives were literally shot down by the IDF. The Israeli airforce and navy now can respond to a drone attack even in less-than-optimal conditions—when they are flying slowly and in low altitude, and are harder to detect. . . . Hizballah will be shown, no doubt, that a strike against Israel’s territorial waters by UAVs or other methods, . . . will come at a cost.