Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Israel Deploys UAVs on Gas Fields in Mediterranean Sea for Additional Protection

Fearing possible attacks by Hezbollah on gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea, the Israel Air Force (IAF) has recently begun deploying unmanned aerial vehicles as an additional layer of protection, Xinhua reported.

The IAF’s Heron drone, specially developed by the state-run Israel Aerospace Industries for maritime operations, has been flying surveillance missions over rigs off the coast of Haifa, thus enabling the military to maintain constant monitoring of the sites, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

The decision to deploy the UAVs came after Hezbollah vowed to protect Lebanon’s maritime sovereignty.

On July 14, Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general, said that Lebanon will not allow Israel to seize its oil, gas and water resources.

“Lebanon will stand guard in order to protect all its rights, no matter the cost,”Qassem was quoted as saying.

The discovery of vast gas reserves that can potentially yield billions of U.S. dollars over the past two years has prompted Lebanon to contest the demarcation of its northern maritime border with Israel by submitting to the United Nations its version of the border’s location.

Early last month, Israel’s cabinet approved its version of the demarcation of the border, which sets the economic rights in offshore territories, according to Tuesday’s report. The Israeli government has thus far rejected indirect talks via the UN to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, the Israel Navy is preparing to launch operations of its own to protect the offshore rigs. The defense establishment is reportedly concerned that Hezbollah may attempt to target them with explosive-laden vessels or anti-ship missiles, according to the report.

The report quoted a senior naval officer telling a conference in Tel Aviv last week that Hezbollah and Hamas currently possess missiles that can hit Israeli ports or offshore gas rigs.

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