Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday
Lebanon’s Premier Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri visited the drilling platform Transocean Barents, accompanied by the ministers of Public Works and Transport and Energy, and officials to attend a ceremony to announce the exploration. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 August 2023
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Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday
  • Reformist MP: ‘Do not deceive people with illusions, Lebanon’s current priority is implementing reforms, accountability’
  • Platform 9 is located about 120 km from Beirut

BEIRUT: TotalEnergies, along with its partners Eni and QatarEnergy, on Tuesday launched exploration activities in Block 9 within Lebanon’s territorial waters.
The companies are searching for commercial quantities of gas and oil that Lebanon is pinning its hopes on to revive its collapsing economy.
The drilling is set to start on Aug. 24, as announced by Energy Minister Walid Fayad.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri visited the drilling platform Transocean Barents, accompanied by Fayad and Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamieh, as well as Lebanese petroleum officials to attend a ceremony to announce the exploration.
Platform 9 is located about 120 km from Beirut.
During the visit, Lebanese officials were briefed on preparations for the drilling.
Berri and Mikati toured the drilling platform to oversee the logistics for the oil and gas exploration in Block 9 within Lebanon’s territorial waters.
Berri said he hoped that “in a few months, God would bless Lebanon with a flow of his grace, marking the beginning of solving the economic crisis that Lebanon and its people are experiencing,” and that the Lebanese would reach a consensus on electing a president who would initiate a political solution.
Mikati said he wished that “the upcoming days bring signs of good fortune to help Lebanon address the numerous crises it is facing, and that everyone cooperates in the upcoming phase to halt the deterioration we are witnessing on all fronts.”
The delegation flew from Beirut’s airport to the drilling platform in a TotalEnergies helicopter.
Romain de La Martiniere, general manager of TotalEnergies in Lebanon, said the exploratory well “will enable us to assess hydrocarbon resources and production potential in this area.”
The company holds a 35 percent working interest in Block 9, alongside its partners Eni (35 percent) and QatarEnergy (30 percent).
Lebanese officials continue to delay the implementation of reforms required by the international community for assistance.
Reformists dismissed the notion of using potential oil wealth to offset the deficit faced by the treasury without holding those responsible for this deficit accountable.
Ibrahim Mneimneh, a reformist MP, said: “Do not deceive people with illusions.”
He told Arab News: “The crux of the political dispute with this political class lies in their perception of the country’s resources as a hen laying golden eggs meant to conceal their corruption, ventures and financial strategies that have driven the nation to its present state.”
He said the issue “is not oil or gas; it involves the embezzlement of the nation’s resources. Those responsible must face consequences, not pardons for past actions.
“Furthermore, the exploration process has yet to commence, and even when it does, it remains uncertain whether it will yield commercial quantities or merely fulfill the country’s immediate needs.”
He added: “Even if quantities are discovered, determining whether we possess oil wealth requires the next seven years. Thus, hastiness in thought is nothing but delusions.”
Mneimneh questioned “the rationale behind connecting the sovereign wealth fund to public funds,” and said: “We must address the financial gap and tackle the task of restructuring banks and enacting various necessary reforms. Prioritizing the sovereign wealth fund at this time is unacceptable; it can wait, given that there exist other pressing priorities.”
The repercussions of the economic crisis continue to affect state institutions. The latest manifestation of this is a warning issued by Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, who reiterated that the military institution grapples with crises to the extent that it possesses only a one-month supply of gasoline.
If this stock is not replenished, the army will be incapable of conducting patrols beyond a month.
This warning considers that fuel reserves for the institution used to suffice for an entire year.


Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: UK maritime agency

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: UK maritime agency
Updated 3 sec ago
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Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: UK maritime agency

Missile attack causes fire aboard vessel off Yemen: UK maritime agency
DUBAI: A missile attack targeted a vessel transiting the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire on board, a British maritime security agency said Thursday.
“A vessel was attacked by two missiles, resulting in a fire onboard,” the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said, adding that “coalition forces are responding.”
Maritime intelligence agency Ambrey identified the ship as an Palau-flagged, UK-owned general cargo ship on its website.

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
Updated 39 min 3 sec ago
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Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
  • Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship, was damaged in Sunday’s Houthi missile strike

DUBAI: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels remains afloat and could be towed to Djibouti this week, its operator said on Thursday.
Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in Sunday’s missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had claimed on Monday the attack on the ship, saying it was “at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden” after receiving “extensive damage.”
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
“She will be towed to Djibouti but the tugboat has not yet arrived,” Khoury said. “It should be there in two to three days.”
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury said there was “no risk for now but always a possibility.”
Ship-tracking site TankerTrackers.com confirmed that the Rubymar had not sunk but warned that the vessel was leaking fuel oil.
The attack on the Rubymar has inflicted the most significant damage yet to a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said the ship’s last port of call was the United Arab Emirates and it was destined for Belarus.
Its 24 crew members included 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians and four Filipinos, the authority said in a statement on Monday.
“The vessel has on board 21,999 MT (metric tons) of fertilizer IMDG class 5.1,” the authority said on X, formerly Twitter, describing it as “very dangerous.”
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.


Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem

Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem
Updated 22 February 2024
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Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem

Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem
  • Eight people with varying degrees of injuries were evacuated from the scene by medics
  • Violence was already on the increase across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on several vehicles near a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Thursday, wounding eight people in a “terror attack,” police said.
The incident occurred near Maale Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem, police said, adding the attackers had arrived in a vehicle.
Violence was already on the increase across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war which began in October, but has escalated since to levels unseen in nearly two decades.
“The three terrorists... got out of their vehicle and started shooting from automatic weapons at vehicles that were standing in a traffic jam on the road toward Jerusalem,” police said in a statement.
“Two terrorists were neutralized on the spot. In the searches conducted at the scene, another terrorist was located who tried to escape and he was also neutralized.”
Eight people with varying degrees of injuries were evacuated from the scene by medics, the police said.

 

Thursday’s shooting comes after two people were shot dead on Friday at a bus stop in southern Israel near the town of Kiryat Malakhi.
The West Bank has seen frequent Palestinian attacks on Israelis and near-daily raids by the Israeli military that often turn deadly.
Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Gaza war began, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.
Israel captured the West Bank — including east Jerusalem, which it later annexed — in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Around 475,000 Jewish settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, their settlements considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community.
The Palestinian population of the West Bank numbers about 2.9 million.
The Palestinians claim the territory as the heartland of their future independent state, but on Wednesday Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
At least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting

Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting
Updated 22 February 2024
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Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting

Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting
  • Turkiye has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called on the international community to take a more active role toward an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution to the conflict during talks at the G20 meeting in Brazil, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
Turkiye, which has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire.
Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkiye does not view Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which runs Gaza and on Oct. 7 carried out an attack inside Israel that prompted the Israeli campaign, as a terrorist organization.
Fidan told a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday that the “savagery” in Gaza must be stopped, and discussed steps to achieve an urgent ceasefire and get more aid into the enclave during talks with counterparts from the United States, Germany, and Egypt, the source said.
“Steps that can be taken to achieve a full ceasefire as soon as possible were discussed,” during talks between Fidan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the source said, adding Fidan also discussed “concrete steps” to stop the fighting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
“The fact that a decision on a ceasefire did not come out of the UN Security Council once again, has shown that reform is a must,” Fidan told a session at the G20 meeting, according to one of his aides, referring to a third US veto on a ceasefire call at the 15-member body.
Ankara says the UN Security Council must be reformed to be more inclusive and representative of the world.
“The stance shown by Brazilian President Lula (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) is admirable,” the aide cited Fidan as saying, in reference to comments by Lula in which he likened the war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two and which caused a diplomatic spat.


Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
  • Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short
  • International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza’s Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.
International concern has spiraled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel.
More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.
International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.
The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighboring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.
Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month’s start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.
The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel’s operation in Rafah would begin “after the evacuation of the population,” although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.
In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighborhood.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.
Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.
“I found my wife lying in the street,” he said. “Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran toward him and.... picked her up, realizing she was really my daughter.”
He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.
Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday — his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.
Hamas’s chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.
Israel’s Gantz said there were efforts to “promote a new plan for the return of the hostages.”
“We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction.”
Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an “agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance,” but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.
Israel’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.
Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas’s October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.
The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls — which Israel rejected as “despicable and unfounded claims.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack — something Hamas has denied.
Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis — a city just north of Rafah — medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.
Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the “strongest possible terms.”
When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had “fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring,” adding that it “regrets” harm to civilians.
In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by “artillery shelling.”
Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases — claims that Hamas has denied.