Israel Launches Operation to Destroy Hezbollah Cross-border Tunnels From Lebanon

UPDATE: Israel prepares to destroy Hezbollah tunnels inside Lebanon >> Does this mean war with Hezbollah and Iran?

The Israeli military launched an operation Monday night to destroy cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah, crossing the Lebanon border into Israel.

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– Haaretz Weekly

Does northern op mean war?Haaretz Weekly

The Israel Defense Force announced the discovery of the tunnels on Tuesday morning, saying it has started destroying them, dubbing the operation Northern Shield.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels, Belgium on Monday. The two discussed ways to "work together to block Iranian agression in the region – in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon." The heads of the Mossad and the National Security Council, as well as Netanyahu’s military secretary, also attended the meeting.

>> Israel robs Hezbollah of major offensive asset | Analysis ■ Netanyahu’s meeting with Pompeo is a warning to Iran and Lebanon – before Israel takes military action | Analysis

The military said it has been aware since 2006 that Hezbollah was trying to construct attack tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel at several points along the border. Since then, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has spoken of a plan to take over parts of the Galilee, in northern Israel, in a future conflict.

Nasrallah is expected to give a speech in Lebanon on Tuesday evening in response to the launch of the operation.

The miltiary said it was assessing the situation to gauge Hezbollah’s possible reaction to the destruction of the tunnels. The army warned farmers not to approach the border.

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– IDF tweet

80+ft underground
6ft wide
6ft tall
130ft into Israeli territory
This Hezbollah attack tunnel extends from under a home in southern Lebanon, 600+ feet through solid rock and into Israel.
Identified. Exposed.#NorthernShield pic.twitter.com/gTB6x5FLSS

— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 4, 2018

Twitter/IDF Spokesperson

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that there had already been "operational successes" in the operation. "Whoever tries to harm the State of Israel will pay a heavy price," Netanyahu said in a statement, adding that Israel "is operating divisively and responsibly on all fronts simultaneously. We will continue with further actions – public and clandestine – in order to safeguard the security of Israel." 

New perspective to political crisis

The revelation of Operation Northern Shield brings new perspective to the security cabinet debates surrounding the cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza. Now we can say that the tunnels in the north were among the considerations in the security cabinet meeting where the ministers decided not to launch a full-scale operation in Gaza following a botched Israeli military operation there and the firing of some 500 rockets from Gaza at Israel.

Most of the ministers had agreed, in accordance with the defense establishment’s position, that an offensive in Gaza was not appropriate at the time, out of fear of escalation on two fronts. Lieberman, who resigned his post as defense minister following the cease-fire announcement, disagreed with the assessment that the northern front required immediate action. He insisted that the situation in Gaza was more pressing.

Several ministers have criticized Netanyahu for using classified information about the tunnels and the operation to justify delaying elections. According to them, the level of the threat did not justify a delay in dissolving the coalition.

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– IDF Tweet announcing Operation Northern Shield

BREAKING: We have just launched Operation Northern Shield to expose and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from #Lebanon to #Israel. #NorthernShield pic.twitter.com/HKgnbhn23I

— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 4, 2018

Twitter/Israel Defense Forces

Since the revelation of the operation on Tuesday, most of the ministers support the decision for a cease-fire in Gaza. The prime minister’s bureau instructed ministers not to give interviews for fear of complicating the situation with Hezbollah. When Netanyahu spoke of security threats that he could not disclose in November, it can be assumed that the northern front was one of the threats.

Not an immediate threat

The construction of the tunnels is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis told Army Radio Tuesday.

"We’ve been preparing for this morning for a very long time," Manelis said.

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– A video documenting Operation Northern Shield