Lebanon will fully use energy block disputed by Israel: Minister

Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil. (AP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Lebanon will fully use energy block disputed by Israel: Minister

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s energy minister said on Friday there would be full exploration in an offshore energy block that partially lies in waters disputed by neighboring Israel.
Lebanon said on Friday it had signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including the disputed Block 9.
A consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek signed the agreements for the two blocks, which are among five that Lebanon put up for tender in the country’s much-delayed first licensing round.
Israel and Lebanon have exchanged threats and condemnation over the tender, amid rising tensions over territorial and marine boundaries between them.
“Today, we announce that we have started our petroleum path ... after signing the agreements and launching the exploration activities,” Lebanese Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said at a ceremony in Beirut.
The first well will be drilled in Block 4 in 2019, said Stephane Michel, Total’s president for exploration and production in the Middle East and North Africa.
The second well will be drilled in Block 9 more than 25 km from the border, he said at the ceremony. “There is no reason not to proceed in this way,” Michel added.
Lebanese and Israeli officials said David Satterfield, acting assistant US secretary of state, was in Israel last week and in Lebanon this week on a mediation mission. US officials confirmed his travels without detailing his agenda.
Lebanon, which views Israel as an enemy state, has an unresolved maritime border dispute with its neighbor over a triangular area of sea of around 860 sq km (330 square miles).
The zone extends along the edge of three of the five offshore energy blocks that Lebanon put to tender early last year. Block 9 juts partly into the disputed waters.


Israeli gunfire kills 2 Gaza border protesters

Updated 57 min 37 sec ago
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Israeli gunfire kills 2 Gaza border protesters

  • At least 270 other Palestinians were wounded, 70 of them by gunfire
  • Israel closes access to Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem

GAZA: Israeli troops on Friday shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border.
At least 270 other Palestinians were wounded, 70 of them by gunfire, the Palestinian health ministry in the territory said.

Meanwhile in occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of worshipers were forced to perform prayers outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, after Israeli police shut the gates to the compound, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. The closure came after police claimed that an unidentified man attempted to stab a police officer near the mosque.

In Gaza, the health ministry named the dead men as Karim Abu Fatayer, 30, shot near the central Gaza town of Bureij and Sadi Moamer, 26, killed near Rafah, in the south.
It said that both men were shot in the head.
The Israeli military said troops had opened fire in border incidents.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since late March, mostly during protests.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008 and tensions since late March have led to fears of yet another full-blown conflict.
There have been three intense flare-ups since July, the latest on Thursday, when Israel responded to some 180 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza with widespread air strikes.
An Israeli official said on Wednesday that truce talks mediated by Egyptian and United Nations officials had reached an initial set of “understandings” leading to calm on the border over the past few days.
Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told AFP on Friday that a durable truce with Israel was near. “In my opinion, yes, we are nearing an agreement,” he said.
He added that the UN and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have “taken a big step forward toward understandings with the occupation... and the possibility of restoring calm.”