Hamas claims Palestinian right to exploit Mediterranean gas offshore
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have laid the foundation stone of a sea crossing that connects the enclave to the outside world, at a popular event held in Gaza’s seaport on September 13.
The event also saw the inauguration of a fresco which said “Our gas is our right”.
In their speeches at the event, the heads of the factions and the Joint Armed Operations Room called for allowing the Palestinians to benefit from their own natural resources, namely gas, and stressed that they would not allow Israel to steal their gas.
The event raised discussions about natural gas deposits off the coast of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea.
It also coincided with tensions between Israel and Lebanon over the demarcation of their maritime borders, with Hezbollah threaten israel against extracting gas from a disputed area until Lebanon is allowed to do the same.
It seems that the decision of the Palestinian factions also came to challenge Israel, perhaps indicating that there was coordination between the factions and Hezbollah before the event in the Gaza port.
During the event, a number of Shehab suicide drones flew over the coast of Gaza, in a message that Palestinian factions have the capability to hit Israeli gas extraction barges in the Mediterranean.
In 1999, the Gaza Marine 1 natural gas field was discovered by the British Gas Corporation 36 kilometers (22 miles) west of the Gaza coast in an area within Palestinian territorial waters. A year later, the Gaza Marine 1 field was discovered on the common border with Israel. But for all these years, Israel has prevented the Palestinians from benefiting from their own natural gas resources.
The Palestinians believe that today is the right time to raise the issue of natural gas amid growing global demand for gas in light of the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine, heightened tension between Lebanon and Israel over the disputed gas fields and the American mediation efforts to avoid a military confrontation between the two countries.
Suhail al-Hindi, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al-Monitor that the recent event organized by the Palestinian factions was a message to Israel stressing the Palestinians’ right to gas, and that the factions have the capabilities to confront Israel to acquire this right, regardless of the obstacles and difficulties. “We also sent a message about our right to have a waterway that connects Gaza to the world,” he said.
He noted, “We may encounter difficulties in obtaining our right, but we have taken the first step on this path and sent a message to the enemy and to the mediators about this.”
Hindi declined to reveal details on how the factions would complete the waterway and ultimately secure their rights to Gaza’s natural gas, saying, “This issue has been raised in the past and will be raised later with [all the parties involved]. But as to where, when and how this will be achieved, the days to come will tell.
Thabet al-Amour, a Palestinian author and political analyst, told Al-Monitor that the Palestinians followed in Hezbollah’s footsteps in raising the natural gas issue, as they saw Israel backing down in the Karish gas field, which is in the disputed area with Lebanon and where an Israeli gas platform began extracting gas in June.
So, he added, it seems that the Palestinian factions wanted to raise and deal with their own gas dossier in the same way that Hezbollah did.
Amour, however, ruled out the possibility of a clash between Palestinian factions and Israel over the gas fields, in light of other major issues that are a source of tension between the two sides, including the Judaization of Jerusalem, the repeated raids in Al -The Aqsa Mosque and ongoing Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank.
He noted that the gas dossier has never been a reason behind previous wars on Gaza, while the waterway project was included in the 2014 truce agreement – although it has not yet implemented eight years later.
The faction’s message seems to have reached Israel.
In a Facebook post On September 14, Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN and current chairman of World Likud, the global communications wing of the Likud party, said: “After [Prime Minister Yair] Lapid’s apparent surrender to Hezbollah, and having given up much of the sea and gas reserves, now Hamas too has honed its appetite and intends to blackmail Lapid in order to extract gas offshore from the shores of Gaza. Lapid is causing long-term political-strategic damage to Israel that will take years to repair. »
In a September 13 article, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem said, “Palestinian organizations are trying to follow in Hezbollah’s footsteps by threaten israel [when it comes to gas resources].”
According to Ben-Menachem, Israeli concerns increased after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah recently met in Beirut, during which they discussed the possible consequences of a confrontation with Israel at the maritime border.