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Aoun: Lebanon military ready to confront Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (C) and Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) are pictured at a cabinet meeting on February 8, 2018. (Photo by NNA)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun says he has ordered the country's armed forces to confront any attempt by Israel to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty, as Israeli officials stir more territorial tensions with Beirut.

Addressing a cabinet session on Thursday, Aoun vowed to “prevent any Israeli aggression on Lebanon’s land and water” in the wake of disagreements with Israel over Mediterranean oil fields as well as a planned border wall.

“We hope to put an end to this matter through diplomatic channels, yet our military has been given the orders to confront any threat to our sovereignty," Aoun asserted, noting that talks were underway "to prevent Israeli greed."

The two sides have nearly come to blows over a tender by Lebanon in December for oil and gas exploration projects in two of the country's 10 offshore blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, namely Block 4 and Block 9.

Israel, which claims sovereignty over the ninth block and claims it runs into its side of the Mediterranean, has blasted the move as "very provocative."

The Tel Aviv regime has also escalated the tensions by announcing plans for a wall to isolate the occupied Palestinian lands from Lebanese territories.

Lebanon has objected to the plan, saying the wall violates its sovereignty by passing through territory that belongs to the country but is located on the other side of a UN-designated Blue Line, which sets the limits for Israel's 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

Present at Thursday's cabinet session was Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who called on “all political parties to put aside their differences and stand united in the face of Israel’s aggression.”

He also said “communications with the international community are underway to confront Israel’s ambitions.”

A day earlier, Lebanon's Higher Defense Council, also chaired by Aoun, held an extraordinary session to double down on Beirut's stance.

US takes on mediation role

Following the recent escalation, the US has sent David Satterfield, the acting assistant US secretary of state, to the region on a mediation mission, Israeli media reported, citing Lebanese and Israeli officials.

The American official, who once served as the US ambassador to Beirut, headed to Israel last week and spent this week meeting with the Lebanese president, prime minister and other officials.

Satterfield "held talks regarding the wall with Israel and said there is no call for concern, and there is no direction towards escalation," an unnamed senior Lebanese government official told Reuters.

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