The true target: is Gaza’s gas the purpose of Israel’s war

Vissualize a Palestinian child standing amidst the rubble of his house, in a highly detailed, hyper-realistic style, with an extremely dramatic and gri
(Photo: Ai-Generated)
Beyond the ongoing Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, characterized by airstrikes and political discourse, broader concerns emerge regarding resource exploitation. The strategic importance of Gaza’s natural gas reserves takes center stage, prompting questions about Israel’s true intentions behind the war. Speculations arise as to whether Israel deliberately disregarded warnings about October 7, viewing it as an opportunity to pursue gas agreements that require the removal of Hamas.اضافة اعلان

Gaza's natural gas significanceA study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2019 confirmed significant oil and natural gas reserves in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), spanning from Area C of the West Bank to the Mediterranean coast off the Gaza Strip. These reserves have the potential to generate billions of dollars in development. Additionally, discoveries of natural gas in the Levant Basin amount to approximately 122 trillion cubic feet, with recoverable oil estimated at 1.7 billion barrels. These reserves present an opportunity to distribute and share around $524 billion among the various parties in the region.

However, the study highlighted the obstacles faced by Palestinians in exploiting these resources due to the ongoing occupation, resulting in substantial economic losses estimated in the billions of dollars. The longer Palestinians are denied access to their natural resources, the greater the opportunity costs and overall economic impact of the occupation become.

History of Gaza gas development:1) ‘Gaza Marine’ fieldIn 1999, the British Gas Group (BGG) discovered the ‘Gaza Marine’ gas field. This discovery prompted the signing of a 25-year contract between BGG and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), aiming to exploit gas for energy, including electricity, and export revenues. Despite these intentions, negotiations with Israel to finalize an agreement with the Israeli Electric Company encountered numerous obstacles.

The Gaza Marine gas field, estimated to contain approximately 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, is strategically located off the coast of Gaza, falling within the 20-mile territorial limit governed by the PNA under the Oslo Accords of 1995. However, Israel's stance obstructed any progress toward its development.

Initially, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak approved drilling activities at the site. However, after Barak's tenure, negotiations were terminated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002. In September 2007, a former Israeli Chief of Staff strongly opposed reaching an agreement with BGG, leading the Israeli government to explore alternatives that would bypass the PNA, violating the 1995 agreement.

Subsequently, BGG withdrew from negotiations by the end of 2007. Israel failed to resume talks in 2008 before the outbreak of the 'Operation Cast Lead' war, which led to Israel taking control of the gas fields, disregarding international legal considerations.

Gaza Marine Field talks return shorty before October 7On June 18, 2023, a couple of months before the war, Israel granted preliminary approval for the development of a gas field off the strip. The agreement would require security coordination with the PNA and Egypt. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office emphasized the importance of preserving Israel's security and diplomatic interests in the progress of the Gaza Marine project.

However, Hamas reiterated the rights of the people in Gaza to their natural resources. Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said, “Our people have the right to know how the authority behaves on major issues because precedent confirms that it acts without the slightest degree of transparency, and determines its actions and relations based on narrow partisan and factional interests.”

Netanyahu knows that Israel cannot proceed with any gas agreements due to Hamas' rejections. Therefore, it is speculated that Israel ignored various warnings regarding October 7, viewing it as a strategy to develop the projects since they require the ‘elimination of Hamas.’

Moreover, four weeks into Israel’s war on the strip, Israel’s Minister of Energy Eli Cohen announced that Israel had awarded 12 licenses to six companies for the exploration of natural gas off the Mediterranean coast. Israel's objective was to boost its gas reserves and progress plans for gas exports to Europe, as the continent seeks new energy sources.

The licences were granted to two groups of companies. The first group, led by the Italian Energy Group Eni along with Dana Petroleum and Israel's Ratio Energies, will explore an area west of the Leviathan field, a significant source of gas supply for Israel and also utilized for exports. The second group, consisting of Azerbaijan's national oil company Socar, British Petroleum (BP), and Israel's NewMed, will explore north of the Leviathan.

An Eni spokesperson stated, "The company was awarded a licence in the country's southern offshore gas basin. Any technical considerations on the prospects and timing of the activities are obviously premature.”

2) Russia-Ukraine war reignited interest in Gaza’s gas
Several media sources reported that the war between Russia and Ukraine caused a global energy crisis, renewing interest in developing the Gaza Marine gas field. Officials from various countries held joint meetings to discuss the project, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu giving it the green light. Notably, pressure from US President Joe Biden and Egyptian officials pushed Israel to pursue the project.

The Ben Gurion Canal project revival
During the war on Gaza, the focus also turned to the Ben Gurion Canal Project, a proposal initiated by Israel in the late 1960s. This attention occurred particularly as Israel's tactic of compelling Palestinians to relocate to Egypt's Sinai by causing casualties and rejecting ceasefires became apparent.

This project, named after Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, was envisioned as a strategic endeavor to reduce Israel's reliance on the Suez Canal and establish an alternative maritime route under Israeli control. The route would pass through the Gulf of Aqaba, Eilat, the Jordanian border, and the Arabah Valley before turning west toward the Dead Sea basin and ultimately connecting to the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it would go through Gaza.

Hence, Israel's military campaign in Gaza, coupled with alleged plans to divert the canal through the territory, raises humanitarian concerns and exacerbates the suffering of Palestinians in the strip.

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