Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Israel targets Hezbollah 'terror tunnels'

Israel targets Hezbollah 'terror tunnels'

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that a cross-border tunnel dug by Hezbollah into Israeli territory and exposed Tuesday as part of a large-scale operation against subterranean passageways from Lebanon is significantly larger that those tunnels dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The operation comes hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a last- minute trip to Brussels to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The army said the operation was for now confined to Israel and did not extend into Lebanon, where the tunnels originated.

Israel has warned that another war with the group is likely and has said it will use massive military force in any new fight.

Hezbollah has not responded to the military operation yet.

A United Nations peacekeeping force which monitors the border region said it was calm on Tuesday with no signs of any increased tension. The group would use firepower and ground units and "the surprise component of that plan was supposed to be tunnels that would allow infiltrators into 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. However, the Israeli operation could heighten tensions between Israel and its Iran-backed foe, which have both been preoccupied with other conflicts since their last conflagration more than a decade ago.

An Israeli military digger works on the Lebanese Israeli border next to a wall that was built by Israel in the southern village of Kafr Kila Lebanon
An Israeli military digger works on the Lebanese Israeli border next to a wall that was built by Israel in the southern village of Kafr Kila Lebanon

Netanyahu said he had planned to discuss with Pompeo "steps we are taking together to block the aggression of Iran and its proxies in the north", referring to Syria and Lebanon.

Additional IDF troops were deployed to northern Israel as a precaution against potential attacks by Hezbollah, but no reservists were called up.

The IDF added that it had "enhanced its presence and readiness in the Northern Command and is prepared for various scenarios".

Israel appears increasingly concerned that Iran is attempting to transfer some of its military influence from Syria, where Russian Federation is the government's top ally, to Lebanon.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah. He took over the defense portfolio from his resigning minister and promised to pursue a hard line against Israel's enemies during what he described as a "complex" security situation.

Israeli officials have long warned the threat posed by Gaza's Hamas rulers pales in comparison to that of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah - a heavily-armed mini-army with valuable combat experience and an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach almost every part of Israel. In recent years, Israel has destroyed dozens of tunnels dug by Hamas under their shared border.

A Hezbollah official told al-Nahar that Netanyahu was "in crisis" and had manufactured the confrontation in order to distract from his legal and political troubles.

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