Tensions between Israel and Lebanon vis-à-vis their shared maritime and land borders have escalated in recent days following Israel's comment on Lebanon's first offshore oil and gas exploration tender in the Mediterranean Sea. On January 31, the Government of Israel described Lebanon's approval of licenses for the Italian Eni, French Total, and Russian Novatek oil companies to carry out drilling beginning in 2019 in contested waters between Israel and Lebanon as "very provocative." Israel has accused Lebanon of violating its sovereignty by exploring the contested waters and urged international oil companies to not cooperate with Lebanon.
In subsequent days, the Lebanese government shifted its focus to its land border with Israel, accusing Israel of violating its own national sovereignty by constructing a wall on Lebanese territory. Although Israel asserts that the wall is being built on its side of the border, Lebanon claims that the project breaches UN Security Council resolution No. 1701, which calls for the full respect of the Blue Line - the land border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon determined by the UN in 2000. On Wednesday, February 7, Lebanon's Defense Council said it would take all necessary measures, including military options, to protect Lebanon's territory from what it claims to be Israeli aggression.
Despite such tensions, Lebanese and Israeli officials met under the mediation of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on February 7 in an attempt to solve their border disputes. UNIFIL declared that any project along the Blue Line would need to have its prior approval.
Israel and Lebanon's maritime dispute covers over 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) of contested waters in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2009, the discovery of offshore oil and gas fields in waters between Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon exacerbated geopolitical tensions. Both countries are in favor of an international settlement over their shared maritime border.
In addition, Israel has pursued the controversial construction of a security barrier between Israel and Lebanon since 2012. In 2006, a war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group left at least 1350 civilians and fighters dead.
Individuals in Israel and Lebanon are advised to avoid areas near the border between the two countries and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities. Travel between the two countries is highly restricted, with border crossings closed for most ordinary travelers.
As a reminder, Lebanese and Israeli stamps in your passport can jeopardize your entry into Israel and Lebanon respectively.
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