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

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

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

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.

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The IDF is currently assessing the situation to gauge Hezbollah’s reaction to the destruction of the tunnels. The IDF expects changes in the current situation. At this stage, farmers have been warned not to approach the border. 

In 2013, the military discovered that Hezbollah was attempting to begin construction of the tunnels but could not locate any. 

In 2014, the military formed a special team to locate these tunnels, and in 2015 the military began a project to build a barrier along the Lebanese border. During this time, the military developed technology to locate the tunnels.

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The IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said, "the fact that Hezbollah has tunnels crossing the border into Israeli territory is proof of a flagrant violation of Israeli sovreignty. We see this as a very serious situation that hurts Lebanon and the citizens of Lebanon, and we hold the Lebanese government accountable. We have indisputable proof that the Lebanese government is not in control of their border. Iranian money is behind these tunnels."

According to Manelis, the IDF troops along the border have been reinforced, "We are in full control of the situation and are determined to remove the underground Hezbollah threat from the northern border. The tunnels do cross into Israeli territory, but the work on them was not complete."

Over the last few years authorities in the north have reported hearing noises from under the ground, yet the Israeli army maintained that there were no tunnels under the northern border.

The army has long been aware of Hezbollah’s intention to build tunnels, yet it is unclear at what point they discovered the tunnels that are currently being destroyed.

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 head of the Mossad, the head of the National Security Council and the military secretary also attended the meeting.