Israel, Lebanon navy increase cooperation in Mediterranean

Lebanese navy has been helping the IDF drive away boats that approach the Israeli border, as Israel Navy prepares for possible altercations on upcoming Nakba Day.

The Israel Navy has recently strengthened its cooperation with the Lebanese Navy in the Mediterranean, as it prepares for possible pro-Palestinian flotillas to Gaza on Nakba Day this month.

Israel Navy ships on the northern border with Lebanon

Israel Navy ships on the northern border with Lebanon - Photo by: Hagai Fried

According to Israel Navy officials, the indirect cooperation between the Israeli and Lebanese navies has increased.

On Land Day last month, when hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to protest the loss of Arab lands in the Galilee, the Lebanese army increased its naval operations and barred any ship from approaching the maritime border with Israel, to prevent any possible provocations.

The Israel Defense Forces has also recently been aided by the Lebanese Navy in driving out foreign fishing boats that have been nearing Israeli waters. As a result, a significantly fewer number of foreign ships approach Israel’s maritime border now.

When the Israeli navy identifies a fishing boat that is closing in on Israel’s maritime border at a distance less than 400 meters, the Israel Navy turns to its counterparts on the Lebanese side, through an international body, and Lebanese ships arrive and drive the boat north, away from the Israeli border.

The Israel Navy has been preparing for possible pro-Palestinian flotillas to Gaza on Nakba Day, to take place on May 15 to mourn the displacement of Palestinians following the establishment of Israel in 1948, and on Naksa Day, which takes place in June and commemorates the displacement of Palestinians after the 1967 war.

Israeli navy ships have been preparing for a maritime protest, that could involve a number of fishing boats approaching the Israeli maritime border. As part of the preparation, the Israel navy has been equipping itself with stun and gas grenades.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has reported this week that pro-Palestinian activists from Sweden has announced their intent to organize another Gaza flotilla this year, saying they have already bought the ship.

“On the one hand we are glad that [the Lebanese] are helping us, but on the other hand it’s not always good, as we remember the Lebanese sniper,” an Israel Navy officer said, referring to an incident in which a Lebanese sniper killed an IDF reservist regiment commander during an operation on the northern border in 2010.

“Our goal is that the Lebanese will take care of the fishing boats that approach the border,” a commander in the Israel Navy said. “The danger is the close distance: A suicide bomber could get to Rosh Hanikra or Achziv beach within seconds.”

For now, Israel’s northern maritime border is considered quieter than ever. However according to Israeli intelligence assessments, Hezbollah is also preparing for a possible attack, and is reportedly also operating ships.

“Currently it is very quiet here, but like the entire northern border, if nothing is happening – it is because Hezbollah doesn’t want anything to happen,” the Israel Navy commander said.

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By Gili Cohen