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Archive image IDF spokesperson

Israel’s defense establishment is gearing up for a possible conflict with Lebanon, after maritime border talks between Jerusalem and Beirut floundered.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz on Thursday held a situation assessment regarding Israeli defenses on the northern front together with the IDF Chief of the General Staff, MOD Director General and Head of the IDF Operations Directorate.

“In light of the developments in the maritime border negotiations with Lebanon, during the assessment, Minister Gantz instructed the defense establishment to prepare for any scenario in which tensions increase in the northern arena, including defensive and offensive readiness,” a defense ministry spokesperson said.

Tensions rose Thursday, after Lebanon demanded further changes to a draft agreement of a maritime border deal, which would formally delineate the boundaries of Israeli and Lebanese waters, including prized offshore gas fields.

Last week, US envoy Amos Hochstein submitted a new draft of the agreement, including major concessions by Israel to Lebanon.

The draft was accepted by Jerusalem, which viewed the version as final.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid drew heavy criticism from the Israeli Right for agreeing to move the boundary farther to the south, yielding the entire Kana gas field to Lebanese control, with Israel entitled to some royalties for gas extracted from the portion of the field which lays in Israeli territory.

The move even drew rare criticism from US lawmakers and former US ambassador David Friedman, who claimed the deal constituted a complete surrender of Israeli interests.

After Israel signaled its agreement of the draft, however, Beirut issued further demands, repudiating, among other things, the provision of the deal which would ensure Israel royalties for gas extracted from parts of the Kana field.

Instead, Lebanon has insisted, the French corporation licensed to drill in Kana will buy out Israel’s rights to the gas.

Lapid on Thursday rejected Lebanon’s new demands, a senior official told reporters.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday that the deal would deescalate tensions in the region, alluding to a likely war should talks fall through.

“I am convinced that the deal is strategically important,” Mikati said. “First of all, because with it we prevent certain regional war.”

Israel has indicated it will move forward with extraction efforts in the Karish gas field even if talks stall or fall through, with Prime Minister Lapid warning that any attack or threat of attack by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah on Israeli facilities or ships at the gas field would lead to a cessation of negotiations.