Preliminary surveys of Lebanese offshore fields show reserves of 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 660 million barrels of oil, Lebanon’s energy minister said on Thursday, adding that production could begin within four years.
Speaking at the Arab Economic Forum, Gebran Bassil said scanning was now complete on 70 percent of the country’s territorial waters — an area of some 15,000 square kilometers (5,791 square miles).
“In just 10 percent of that area… we have 30 trillion cubic feet (850 million cubic meters) of gas and 660 million barrels of oil,” he said.
Speaking to Agence France Presse, Bassil said the amounts were “very large and promising as initial estimates.”
Production from the reserves was linked to the speed of the exploration phases and installation of wells, but “theoretically ranges from three to seven years.”
“If we meet all the deadlines, we hope to have completed the first exploration phase in the period between 2016 and 2017 and to begin thereafter development and production,” he added.
Last month, Bassil announced the name of 46 firms that had qualified to bid on a first round of licenses to explore Lebanon’s offshore fields, with 12 qualified to bid as operators.
The bidding round opened on May 2 and is scheduled to be completed by November 4.
In January, Bassil said Lebanon hoped to have exploration contracts with international oil companies signed and sealed by the end of the year.
In August, parliament passed a law setting Lebanon’s maritime boundary and Exclusive Economic Zone.
Lebanon has submitted to the United Nations a maritime map which is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, and that conflicts with one proposed by the Zionist entity.
The disputed zone consists of about 882 square kilometers, and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, saying he lacks neutrality.
The statement said Damascus would stop cooperating with Brahimi unless he severs his ties with the Arab League. “Brahimi’s report (on April 19) to the United Nations Security Council was marked by (a tone of) interference in Syria’s internal affairs and a lack of the neutrality required by his mission as international mediator,” the statement said.
Brahimi said at a closed-door session of the Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not have the right to run for president in the upcoming election scheduled for next year.
“Syria has cooperated and will cooperate with Brahimi only as UN envoy, because the Arab League is complicit in the conspiracy against Syria,” the statement read.
“If Brahimi wants his mission to succeed, we expect him to start working to stop the violence and terrorism along with the parties concerned, and to expose the roles played by France, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which finance and arm Al-Nusra Front’s terrorists,” it added.
As part of their escalatory steps against Turkish interests in Lebanon, families of the Lebanese abductees in Syria protested Thursday near the Turkish airlines in Beirut.
The abductees’ kin cut the road near the Turkish airlines in downtown Beirut, and assured they will take further steps to close Turkish centers and stop the work of Turkish airlines.
Spokesman of the abductees’ families, Adham Zgheib, stated that “we have exhausted all peaceful efforts, and each day we will take more actions,” and indicated that “we will reach our voice with our blood. This has become close, and the country brought us to this point.”
Zgheib further said that “Parliament members are required to give priority to the abductees’ case,” adding: “We will vote with our shoes in the coming elections to these PMs who have not recognized us.”
Addressing PM Nabih Berri, Zgheib said “we have met with you before and proposed our case, and you should take action,” considering that “the Lebanese state is pushing us to kidnap Turkish citizens, and as we said before, this is not what we want.”
The Israeli military chief claimed the Zionist entity can invade the Islamic Republic of Iran on its own.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz made the remarks in an interview on public radio in East al-QudsGantz (Jerusalem) on Tuesday, AFP reported.
“We have our plans and forecasts… If the time comes we’ll decide” on whether to take military action against Iran, he said.
Other Israeli officials made similar remarks, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon.
Netanyahu said that US-engineered sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program might not be enough.
Ya’alon also said Iran’s nuclear energy program is the most dangerous threat to the world.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with the Israeli regime repeatedly threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities based on the unsubstantiated allegation.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The Zionist entity’s vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system failed to intercept at least two rockets fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The two rockets hit the occupied Red Sea resort town of Eilat early on Wednesday with no casualties reported.
Israeli military sources said the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system, which was recently deployed around Eilat, did not engage to intercept the rockets.
“We’ve found two explosion sites in the city, we’ve also closed off the airport as a precaution,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying one landed in “an open area close to one of the neighborhoods.”
He said the sirens had sounded but that there were no initial reports of casualties. “Bomb disposal experts are searching the area,” Rosenfeld said.
The military spokesman said both rockets had struck open areas.
“There were two rockets fired from Sinai, both landed in open spaces,” he said. Later on, Israeli website, Haaretz, reported that the airport in Eilat reopened.
Egypt denied that rockets were fired from its territories, and senior military official said troops were “investigating” the incident.
Hours later, a Salafi group called the Mujahedeen Shura Council posted a statement online saying its militants had “managed to target occupied Eilat with two Grad rockets” without saying where they were fired from.
- 5th Iron Dome Battery Deployed in Eilat as ‘Precaution’ (algemeiner.com)
Lebanese army troops have thwarted a smuggling plot by a group of armed men to deliver weapons to ‘extremist groups.’
In a statement released on Sunday, the Lebanese army announced that it had received information indicating that “some people were preparing to smuggle arms to extremist groups”.
Media reports said an army unit was accordingly dispatched to Ain Zhalta village in the Chouf district of southwestern Lebanon late on Saturday and foiled the weapons delivery attempt.
The operation led to a shootout between Lebanese army forces and the gunmen. An armed man was killed in the gun battle, while another was injured. The wounded man was arrested along with seven other gunmen after the clashes.
Meanwhile, a Lebanese soldier was wounded in the fierce exchange of fire. A military vehicle also sustained damage.
The eight detainees are being interrogated by Lebanese judicial authorities.
The seized arms haul included heavy-, medium- and light-caliber weapons, and a large amount of munitions of various types.
A female Bahraini doctor says the Al Khalifa regime forces have ‘severely’ tortured her and several other doctors, who treated injured anti-regime protesters, in order to extract false confessions.
“We were forced to sign false confession blindly without reading them and these confessions were taken or extracted by severe torture and I mean by severe torture physical and psychological torture,” Dr. Fatima Haji said in a recent interview with Russia Today.
“We’d been denied sleep for days and had been standing for days. We were not given food or fluids and were hardly allowed to go the toilet,” Haji stated.
She further said the inmates were beaten by wooden sticks and hollow pipes. They were also electrocuted, sexually harassed and threatened with death and rape.
Haji is one of a group of doctors who were sentenced to five years in jail for their role in anti-regime protests. However, they were acquitted in 2012.
The confession they were forced to sign said that they were in possession of arms in the hospital where they worked and that they were trying to topple the Manama regime.
Syrian opposition is facing turmoil as the head of the opposition coalition Moaz al-Khatib resigned on Sunday and the so-called “Free Syrian Army” rejected the group’s appointment of an interim prime minister.
“I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution,” Khatib said in a statement published on Sunday on his Facebook page.
He had also objected to last week’s coalition appointment of American-educated businessman Ghassan Hitto as an interim prime minister for the areas controlled by the armed groups.
Shortly after Khatib announced his resignation, the so-called “Free Syrian Army” refused to recognize Hitto as prime minister, spokesman Louay al-Mekdad said.
Al-Mekdad told Western news agencies that Hitto was not properly elected because there was no consensus on his candidacy.
Other rebels have said they do not need a prime minister because they already are governing areas under their control. These moves left the US-backed efforts to forge a united front against the Syrian opposition in tatters.
“The coalition is on verge of disintegrating,” Amr al-Azm, a history professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio said.
There seems to be little doubt that an initiative launched last fall in the Qatari capital, Doha, to create an inclusive and representative opposition body is falling apart, added Azm.
Syrian ambassador at the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, accused the Zionist entity of cooperating with the armed group that abducted 21 UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights earlier this week.
“Israel facilitated entry of Salafist elements into the buffer zone between Israel and Syria in Golan, which is considered a violation of the 1974 treaty signed between the two sides, Jaafari told reporters on Friday.
“Israel wanted to repeat what it had done in south Lebanon in 1970s when they created an isolating area and appointed a Lebanese officer to fight for them”.
“For achieving such aim, peacekeepers should be evacuated from Golan,” he added.
“Two weeks ago, seven terrorist from the same armed group that took the Filipino contingent staffers hostage where also rescued by the Israelis through the separation line, treated in Israeli hospitals and returned at an undisclosed place on the line of separation, according to the Israeli official statement.” he said.
“So that proves to itself that the Israelis are cooperating with these armed groups and terrorist groups.”
Jaafari also dismissed the notion that Assad government operations were endangering the hostages or impeding their release.
“We know what we are doing and we know where the peacekeepers are. Our task is to rescue these peacekeepers and safeguard their lives.”
21 UN peacekeepers of the Filippino nationalities were seized by rebels Wednesday near the armistice. But they crossed to freedom in Jordan on Saturday.
A rocket fired from the Gaza strip landed early Tuesday near Ashkelon in the south of the Palestinian occupied territories, as al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Fatah Movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket launch.
“The rocket fell early in the morning near Ashkelon and did some damage to a road, without hurting anyone,” an Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
In a statement, al-Aqsa Brigades, Groups of Martyr Luai Kane’, claimed responsibility on Tuesday for firing a Grad rocket on Ashkelon city.
The statement said that the rocket was “in response for assassinating the prisoner Arafat Jaradat” who was martyred on Sunday after being tortured in an Israeli prison.
“The Freedom won’t be achieved but through sacrifice… We have to resist our enemy in all available means,” al-Aqsa Martyrs added in the statement.
Jaradat’s martyrdom sparked protests across Palestine, with thousands of Palestinians thronging the West Bank village of Sair on Monday for the funeral of Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two and member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Both the Palestinians and the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, have called for an independent inquiry into Jaradat’s death.
Tuesday’s rocket fire was the first such event since the end of an Israeli offensive against Gaza late November.
The two sides finally agreed to a truce on November 21 following the eight-day Israeli attack which cost the lives of dozens of Palestinian civilians. 177 Palestinians were martyred and six Zionists were killed, according to figures issued by the two sides.
The Zionist entity’s aircraft attacked a scientific research center in Jamraya, near the capital Damascus, killing two people and injuring five others.
“The Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the Syrian Army said in a statement on Wednesday.
This is the first Israeli aggression of its kind since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria, and was preceded by Israeli hints of fear from transfer of strategic-value weapons to the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.
Military sources told Al-Manar TV that the aggression was carried out by four warplanes which dropped nine rockets.
The Army command also said in its statement that the attack was carried out against the center after terrorist groups made several failed attempts in the past months to take control of the site. The statement said the Israeli planes had flown below radar range and destroyed the building. It denied that a convoy had been hit near the border with Lebanon, calling the reports “baseless.”
A Western official and a former Lebanese security official said earlier Wednesday that ‘Israel’ had attacked inside Syria along the border with Lebanon, and the former Lebanese official said an unmanned aircraft had hit a truck carrying weapons.
The Zionist entity declined to comment, as did U.S. officials, who deferred to Israel. It claimed earlier that it had targeted a convoy of chemical weapons in Syria.