Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels'

Leroy Wright
December 4, 2018

Israel has accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah with money and arms to continue fighting in Syria and retain its power in Lebanon.

The Israeli military offered few details but said none of the Hizbollah tunnels were operational yet and there was "no immediate threat" to Israel.

The tunnels are concentrated in the area around Metula, a small Israeli town of around 1,000 people nestled against the border with Lebanon.

"The digging of tunnels constitutes a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty", IDF Brig.

The operation was announced on Tuesday by the Israeli military on Twitter. No special instructions were issued for Israeli civilians in the area.

Hezbollah has not responded to the military operation yet.

The tunnels, and the need for an operation to uncover and destroy them, was known to the Security Cabinet when it convened on November 13 and chose to accept a ceasefire with Hamas and not launch a larger offensive against the Gaza Strip following the firing of nearly 500 rockets into Israel.

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Since 2014, an IDF joint-task force of the Intelligence Directorate and the Northern Command has been tackling the problem of Hamas terror tunnels, and in 2015 it began a project to improve the defense of the northern line, including exposing and cutting off the tunnels and constructing a seven-mile (11-kilometer) stone fence.

The announcement of the operation came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Monday night.

As early as 2006, the IDF discovered that Hezbollah was building tunnels into its territory from Lebanon, an activity which only increased after the Second Lebanon War.

Netanyahu further told Pompeo that Tehran's aggression also needed to be confronted in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Lt. Conricus said Hezbollah, aided by Iran, has been developing a plan against Israel that would "shift the battleground into Israel". Israel's border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet in the years since, but Israel has continued to identify the Shiite militant group and its expanding weapons cache of tens of thousands of rockets as a major threat.

The military had also enhanced its readiness along the border, the spokesman said.

Although its attention has been diverted to violent protests along its border with Gaza in recent months, Israel's main security concerns lie to the north, along the border with Lebanon. The Iran-backed Shia group has not yet commented on Israel's actions.

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