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Marc Israel Sellem/AP/SIPA

 

Israel – Hamas: Towards a gas war?

15 November 2023 Confidentiel   275520  

The war in Gaza threatens to disrupt natural gas production in the eastern Mediterranean. This would be a huge blow to Israel and Egypt’s ambitions to become a hub for LNG supplies to Europe, at a time when the EU is looking for alternatives to Russian gas.

The Israeli-Egyptian gas ambitions began in November 2019, when the two countries agreed to boost the flow of Israeli gas to Egypt via the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline, which links Ashkelon in Israel to El Arish in Egypt.

These ambitions were further strengthened in 2020, following the acquisition of Israeli company Noble Energy by Chevron Corporation, the second largest US oil company behind ExxonMobil. Chevron also acquired stakes in Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas fields and had plans to build two more pipelines to link them to the Egyptian port of El Arish.

However, 48 hours after the attacks on 7 October, the Israeli government ordered Chevron to suspend all activity on the Tamar marine field, located just 23 km off the coast of Ashkelon (a town regularly targeted by Hamas missiles), making it vulnerable to attack.

In addition, because of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Ashkelon-El Arish gas pipeline is right in the middle of the battlefield and could be targeted. This threat is all the more serious given that one of Hamas’s stated motives for attacking Israel is to undermine the rapprochement between Israel and moderate Arab countries. An attack on the Ashkelon-El Arish gas pipeline would be a serious warning to Egypt to end its increasingly close energy cooperation with Israel.

In addition to the direct economic repercussions of such an attack, other investments could suffer: since March 2023, BP and the Emirati company ADNOC have been negotiating the purchase of 50% of the Israeli company NewMed Energy, the main owner of the Leviathan gas field.