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Israel-Lebanon tension heats up

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Over the last few weeks, tensions between Lebanon and Israel have increased since the latter reckons that the Tehran-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah was gaining strength as Iran increased its influence in Syria and Lebanon. reports that following an Israeli decision to expand its maritime control zone and unveil the "David's Sling" missile system at its Hatzor air force base, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri said last weekend that Israel was looking to launch a new war on Lebanon.

The Israeli Parliament proposed a bill last month that looked to redraw Israel's maritime economic border with Lebanon in an attempt to expand its control and economic benefits on the sea. In the bill, Israel claimed control of a patch of maritime territory, spanning some 800 square kilometers, which has long been disputed.

In a harsh response, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said that redefining the maritime border meant a declaration of war.

"The recent decision taken by Israel regarding the territorial waters is equal to a declaration of war against Lebanon," he told local Lebanese media. "It is a new attack on Lebanon's sovereignty."

Berri and several Lebanese media outlets accused Israel of annexing the controversial area since it is believed to hold rich natural gas reserves.

Meanwhile, Israel has been targeting Iran-backed Shiite militia group Hezbollah and regime forces in Syria with concerns that Hezbollah might target Israel at any given moment with new weapons supplied by Iran and Russia.

An article, published in The Nation last week quoted a Hezbollah commander as saying, "We've got heavy long-range missiles, directly from the Russians, that can strike anywhere in Israel."

Likewise, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month said that his fighters were sufficiently equipped to hit the Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona. On the other hand, Israeli Brig. Gen. and former Counter-Terrorism Bureau Director Nitzan Nuriel last week said the war with Hezbollah was only a question of time.

Hariri, however, disregarded Israel's concerns and said, "I think Israel is the one that wants to launch a war against Lebanon and not Hezbollah," adding: "Israel does not want Arabs to rest. Look at the daily Israeli violations of our airspace, land and territorial waters."

2017.04.07 / 09:00
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