Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

IDF says exposed Hezbollah tunnel far larger than Hamas tunnels in Gaza

Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels' Israel launches operation to thwart Hizbollah tunnels from Lebanon
Gerardo Duncan | 05 December, 2018, 02:26

Israel said the Iranian-backed Shia militant group had been building the tunnels so its forces could infiltrate into the Jewish state from southern Lebanon.

Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the "attack tunnels" were not yet operational.

The operation began early in the morning, when dozens of mechanical diggers assembled northwest of Metula, an Israeli town at the Lebanese border.

According to two senior regional intelligence sources, the area where the incident is said to have occurred is where Hezbollah has its communications and logistics hub for southern Syria near the Israeli border.

The military did not disclose how many tunnels snake into Israeli territory from Lebanon nor what tools it was using to deal with the threat, although it said the operation could last for weeks.

The current operation was likely part of the discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday evening in Brussels. "For the last four years, we have been monitoring their activity, following what they have been doing quite closely", he said.

In 2013 the army acted on reports Hezbollah was digging tunnels, but failed to locate any, he said.

Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.

In a telephone briefing with The Israel Project (TIP), reserve Col. Atai Shelach, former commander of the Yahalom unit in charge of dismantling tunnels, said it was just a matter of time before Israel would launch such an operation.

The military said in a statement it had "enhanced its presence and readiness in the Northern Command and is prepared for various scenarios".

Netanyahu has spoken of a sensitive security situation in recent days without providing details, particularly after his Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned over a controversial Gaza ceasefire last month.

Conricus rejected suggestions of politics influencing the announcement. Israel's border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet in the years since, but Israel views the Shiite militant group and its rockets as a major threat.

Israeli military personnel and a drill are seen as they work next to the border with Lebanon, near Metulla, northern Israel December 4, 2018. Israel has generally refrained from engaging in Syria's civil war, though it has carried out scores of airstrikes against what Israel says were Iranian shipments of advanced weapons bound for Hezbollah.

Russian Federation subsequently upgraded Syrian air defences with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus had said last month would make Israel "think carefully" before carrying out further air raids.

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