The Israel Defense Forces held a military exercise in the Mount Dov region in northern Israel last week, close to the Israeli-Lebanese border, amid rising tensions over disputed offshore natural gas fields.
The Israeli army said the drill, which included artillery fire, had been scheduled in advance and was not linked to new border security considerations.
The Jewish state, Lebanon and Syria all have claims on the disputed Mount Dov border area, which is also called Sheba Farms. The area offers a strategic view of the three neighboring countries.
MOUNT DOV – A BATTLEGROUND BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HEZBOLLAH
The disputed Mount Dov region has previously been a battleground between Israel and the powerful Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. The Second Lebanon War in 2006 started with Hezbollah attacking Israeli military positions in the Mount Dov area. Since then, the area has remained tense but generally quiet. However, in 2015, Hezbollah fired a missile at an Israeli military vehicle, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding several others.
In August 2021, Hezbollah fired 19 rockets against Israel in the Mount Dov area. It was the heaviest Hezbollah fire directed at the Jewish state since 2006. However, there was no material damage and Israeli aerial defenses succeeded in intercepting at least 10 of the incoming Hezbollah rockets.
In an official statement at the time, Hezbollah revealed that it had deliberately fired at open areas in order to maintain its deterrence without escalating the situation. The Iranian-backed terrorist militia claimed its rocket fire was a response to previous Israeli aerial strikes inside Lebanon.
“The Islamic Resistance shelled open areas near the Sheba Farms with dozens of 122mm rockets,” declared Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has used the disputed Mount Dov region as a political pretext for continuing its hostility toward the State of Israel. While the United Nations confirmed that Israel completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah claims that the withdrawal is not complete as long as the Jewish state controls the Mount Dov region. Hezbollah has further used the contested Mount Dov region to justify its large and expanding arsenal of at least 150,000 rockets that are capable of reaching any point inside the Jewish state.
DISPUTE OVER NATURAL GAS BETWEEN LEBANON, ISRAEL
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and Lebanon over the disputed offshore natural gas field Karish.
Hezbollah recently threatened that it could potentially attack Israel if Jerusalem decides to drill unilaterally for gas in the disputed area. Some pundits believe that Hezbollah is exploiting the maritime border dispute as an excuse to regain domestic influence following its political losses in the recent Lebanese parliamentary elections.
The pro-Hezbollah Lebanese President Michel Aoun recently warned Israel against drilling for natural gas in the contested area.
“Any action or activity in the disputed area represents a provocation and a hostile act,” the Lebanese president’s office said.
However, in practical terms there is little that the militarily and economically weak Lebanese state can do to prevent Israel from drilling for gas.
Fearing increased tensions with Israel, the Lebanese government reportedly offered to drop its demands over the Israeli-held gas field Karish in exchange for full control over the alternative gas field Qana. Beirut subsequently invited the U.S. mediator and envoy Amos Hochstein to Lebanon to find a solution to the border dispute with Israel.
Following his meeting with senior Lebanese officials, Hochstein recently expressed optimism to find a solution that “will enable the negotiations to go forward.” The American envoy commanded the Lebanese proposal as “a very strong step forward.”
While the energy dispute between Lebanon and Israel might be solved in the near future, the tensions between Hezbollah and Israel remain with no end in sight.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.