Tensions rose on the southern border of Lebanon after Hezbollah threatened to target Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas. Lebanon has an ongoing dispute with Israel over defining the gas-rich exclusive economic zone. Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also warned Tel Aviv that the group would retaliate against any Israeli strike on Lebanon by attacking Israel’s offshore platforms. The dispute started after the Lebanese government planned and signed contracts to start exploring offshore oil and gas fields known as Block 9. Israel contested the Lebanese step and insisted on setting the disputed border before Lebanon start exploring.
Addressing the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to wage a full-scale war against Lebanon if Hezbollah launched any attacks against Israel. Moreover, he said that Lebanon’s plans were “very, very challenging and provocative,” On the other hand, Israel started building a new wall along its border with Lebanon on Feb. 8th. No official reason was given regarding the Israeli action, but the last time Israel built a wall along the border in 2012, the purpose was to avoid friction. Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council gave orders to prevent Israel from building a border wall on disputed territory. Lebanon has focused its complaints on 13 points where the fence and Israeli Defense Forces outposts enter Lebanese territory north of the line drawn in 1949. Israel also has complaints about the precision with which the border was determined. David Satterfield, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, delivered a mediation attempt between Israel and Lebanon. Satterfield, has assured Lebanon that Israel is not seeking an escalation between the countries following a surge in hostile rhetoric. He added that there is no call for concern and no direction toward escalation.
Lebanon is getting ready for three international conferences scheduled for March and April 2018, seeking to rally international support for its security institutions and attract foreign investments to shore up the economy facing the burden of a sizeable refugee population. The first conference in Rome aims to receiving international support for Lebanon’s security agencies and further strengthening the Lebanese army’s capabilities. The “Cedar Conference” which will be held in Paris, aims at bolstering financial support for Lebanon. The government aims to receive financial support for its projects through soft loans from international funds and different financial institutions. The Brussels conference, which will be held on the 4th of April, bring together over 70 countries, international organizations and civil society to “reconfirm existing pledges and identify additional support to Syrians inside Syria and in the neighboring countries”.
The main challenge for these conferences are:
Saudi high-ranking envoy Nizar Al-Aloula finished a four-day visit to Beirut during which he met with top Lebanese officials. Aloula was accompanied by a delegation that includes former Saudi Embassy Charge d’Affaires Walid Al-Bukhari. During his visit to Lebanon, Aloula invited the Lebanese Prime Minister to visit the Kingdom. Hariri welcomed the invitation and quickly visited the Kingdom where he met with King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The Saudi envoy’s visit to Lebanon, followed by Hariri’s trip to Riyadh, included several political messages:
The deadline for submitting candidacy finished on March 7th with a record high number of candidates, and the deadline for the list formation is on March 27th. The final image of the alliances in the upcoming parliamentarian elections is not yet clear even though time is running out. It is clear that the new electoral law is making it difficult for the different political parties to have a clear vision of their alliances and of the expected results. However, few things can be noted:
LFP and FPM are so far running separately and alone in most districts with a Christian majority, allying only with independents who will accept to join their parliamentary blocs.
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