THE IDF has launched an operation to strike a blow to Hezbollah’s tunnels – a vast underground network intended for attacking Israelis.
Early on Tuesday morning, the military moved convoys and manpower to the border with Lebanon, and started uncovering and destroying tunnels.
Within a few hours a tunnel was uncovered near the Israeli town of Metulla, and was found to be even larger and more sophisticated than most of Hamas’s tunnels that run from Gaza.
IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said the surprise operation hit at what Hezbollah was hoping would be a “secret ingredient” in its next round of violence, and has been surprised by Israel’s ability to pinpoint tunnels.
Operation Northern Shield comes as Hezbollah is taking delivery of larger and more lethal consignments of arms from its backer Iran, and as the group is upping its ante against Israel. Last week Hezbollah released a video telling Israel: “If you dare attack, you will regret it.”
The clip showed fighters from the Lebanon-based militant group preparing for a missile attack, and Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, promising to retaliate against any Israeli attacks on Lebanon.
Some IDF reservists have been called up in case Hezbollah responds to the tunnel operation, which is expected to last for several days or weeks.
Israel believes that by acting against the tunnels, it is shutting down an avenue that Hezbollah was planning to use to attack.
A military spokesman said that the network has been found early, “before the attack tunnels became operational and posed an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians”.
Israel says that the tunnels constitute a violation of the ceasefire agreement made at the end of the Second Lebanon War and outlined in UN resolution 1701.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, “The activity of Hezbollah in building those attack tunnels from Lebanon to Israel is a blatant violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and it is definitely an act of aggression.”
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin commented: “The discovery of these tunnels only proves the depth of Iranian involvement in Lebanon, both in funding and in political direction.”