Israeli army put on alert amid deadlock in border talks with Lebanon

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has instructed the army to prepare for any possible escalation with Lebanon hours after the Jewish state rejected Beirut’s amendments to a US-brokered proposal for demarcating a maritime border.

“In light of the developments in the maritime border negotiations with Lebanon, Gantz instructed the defence establishment to prepare for any scenario in which tensions increase in the northern arena, including defensive and offensive readiness,” Xinhua news agency quoted the Minister’s office as saying in a statement.

The instruction was made following a situational assessment with Israel’s security chiefs, his office noted, adding the security cabinet held a meeting to discuss the US-mediated proposal Israel received last week.

US energy envoy Amos Hochstein sent Israel and Lebanon a draft of an agreement on a maritime line between the two countries.

The dispute concerns an area of some 860 square km of the Mediterranean Sea.

Earlier on Thursday, a senior official with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Xinhua that the latter was “updated on the details of the new substantial changes that Lebanon is seeking to make in the agreement, and ordered the (Israeli) negotiating team to reject them”.

The official added the Prime Minister will not compromise Israel’s security and economic interests “even if it means that there will be no agreement soon”.

Following Israel’s rejection, Lebanon’s leading negotiator Elias Bou Saab said the US-mediated deal is at a “make or break” point.

Bou Saab, also Lebanon’s Deputy Parliament Speaker, said that he has contacted Hochstein to remove the emerging obstacles to the deal.

According to local media reports, a major point of dispute between Israel and Lebanon was Lapid’s announcement that Israel will receive some of the revenues from Lebanese extraction in the Qana field, located partially in the disputed area.

Lebanese authorities are trying to end a dispute with Israel over maritime borders, which has escalated after Israel on June 5 sent a vessel to the Karish field, which Israel claims is within its economic zone, while Lebanon claims in disputed waters.

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