By Ahmed Alqarout
With the development of new capabilities, undersea warfare opens up new frontiers in the ongoing rivalry between Israel, Hezbollah, and Hamas, with consequences that could reverberate globally.
Clashes in early July in the disputed airspace above Israel’s Karish gas field alerted the region to the ever-present prospect of escalation between Hezbollah and Israel.
Indeed, airspace has been part of growing tensions between both parties in recent years. Although the unarmed drones were not the first of their kind to be sent by Hezbollah, they signalled a new strategy.
On 13 July 2022, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, revealed the movement’s intentions to engage in war with Israel over the Mediterranean gas dispute.
According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah is willing and capable of engaging Israel militarily on land, sea, and air if it fails to settle the marine border dispute with Lebanon to its satisfaction. Nasrallah not only talked about targeting Israeli gas infrastructure, but also Palestinian gas fields disputed with Israel.
“The threat of war between Israel and the Iranian axis has been high for many years now, but what is unique is the new capabilities being deployed to conduct it, especially at sea”
Hamas leaders have shown support for ‘the new equation’ put forward by Hezbollah and expressed willingness to defend national resources against Israeli aggression.
A Beirut-based international relations researcher, Mohamed Sweidan told The New Arab that Hezbollah is taking advantage of Western vulnerability due to the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine to exert additional pressure in the negotiations with the US and Israel. It is also showcasing new military capabilities that could undercut Western efforts to extract energy off Lebanon’s coast without meeting its demands.
These new capabilities, if used, will have a significant disruptive impact that will undermine many of the strategic projects Israel has been developing in order to become a greater global economic and technology power, Sweidan explained.
The threat of war between Israel and the Iranian axis has been high for many years now, but what is unique is the new capabilities being deployed to conduct it, especially at sea. In addition to the introduction of drones, Hezbollah, and also Hamas, have in the past used speedboats and frogmen to launch attacks by water.
However, the success of such attacks has been insubstantial due to operational limitations and exposure to Israeli surveillance and interception capabilities that were able to prevent severe losses.
In the 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah had limited success in launching surface-sea missiles and damaging Israeli military ships. Ports have always been a target for Hamas rockets, yet a large-scale attack has never materialised.
This time, the escalation is likely to take on an entirely new dimension, with the inclusion of undersea targets. The development of new underwater military capabilities by Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran threatens to undermine both the geo-economics of the Mediterranean region and possibly even the wider global economy.
The impending undersea battle between Israel and Hezbollah
An Israeli navy vessel off the coast of Ras al-Naqura (Rosh Hanikra), an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon as tensions flared between the two nations over maritime border disputes on 6 June 2022. https://english.alaraby.co.uk