IDF says exposed Hezbollah tunnel far larger than Hamas tunnels in Gaza
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.
Hours after launching “Operation Northern Shield” on Tuesday morning, the IDF said it was readying to destroy a Hezbollah tunnel burrowed some 40 meters into Israeli territory.
The tunnel, in total approximately 200 meters long, originated from underneath a house in the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila just north of the border. The passageway was some two meters tall and two meters wide and was dug 25 meters below the ground.
The IDF said that the tunnel was equipped with electrical and communication lines and would have taken some two years to build, likely due to the harsh terrain along the border.
The tunnel was the first to be discovered as part of the IDF’s “Operation Northern Shield” which it says aims to prevent and destroy underground tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israeli territory.
80+ft underground— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 4, 2018
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
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the early successes of the operation, and warned of a “heavy price” to be exacted from those who attempt to harm the State of Israel.
The IDF said that "Operation Northern Shield" was initiated under a special task force that has since 2014 been leading operational, technological and intelligence efforts on the issue of tunnels on the northern border and has "developed vast abilities and knowledge on Hezbollah’s attack tunnel project."
An army spokesperson declined to say how many "attack tunnels" had been identified or by what means they would be cut off.
The IDF has used various means to collapse or fill with material tunnels from the Gaza Strip.
The operation was launched before dawn on Tuesday, with the army declaring some areas adjacent to the Lebanon border a closed military zone and deploying additional forces to the north.
No special instructions were issued for Israeli civilians in the area, but local municipalities were preparing public bomb shelters as a precaution against potential attacks by Hezbollah.
.@IDF announces launch of 'Operation Northern Shield' to thwart and destroy underground tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israeli territory | READ MORE: https://t.co/jXXggfvYc0 pic.twitter.com/1ymOjlIfka— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) December 4, 2018
Israel's security cabinet was set to convene to discuss the situation in the north at the defense ministry's headquarters in Tel Aviv at 7:30 p.m. local time, as the IDF said it was preparing for a "protracted" operation at the Lebanese border.
The Lebanese terror group has yet to release an official response to the start of the Israeli operation, but an unnamed Hezbollah source told the al-Nahar news outlet that it showed Netanyahu in “crisis mode” over political and legal woes at home.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said that the area of operation of its peacekeepers "remains calm" and that they are in communication with all relevant parties to ensure stability is maintained.
The UNIFIL peacekeeping force was tasked with ensuring “the immediate cessation” of attacks by Hezbollah and the cessation of all military operations on the border by both sides under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted to end the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.
But Israel often criticizes what it says is UNIFIL’s failure to fulfill its mandate to see the disarmament and containment of Hezbollah.
Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.
Israel and Lebanon have been involved in a series of conflicts over the years and the two remain technically at war.
Since their last fought war in 2006, Hezbollah has strengthened its military capabilities significantly with an estimated arsenal of some 100,000 and 120,000 short-and medium-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred long-range missiles trained on the Jewish State.
Israel has also long warned that it believes Hezbollah intends to conduct cross-border raids in any future conflict with Israel, establishing a special forces unit -- known as the Radwan Unit -- with the specific goal of capturing an Israeli village near the border.
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