“Operation Northern Shield,” seeking to expose and ‎neutralize ‎terror tunnels dug by Hezbollah under the ‎Israel-‎Lebanon border was more than a year-and-a-half in ‎the making, the military said on Tuesday.‎

Operations were currently focused on neutralizing a ‎tunnel breaching nearly 200 meters (656 feet) into ‎Israeli territory near the northern town of Metula. ‎The tunnel is 2 meters (6 feet) high and 2 meters ‎wide, and runs 25 meters (82 feet) deep, the Israel Defense Forces said. ‎

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of ‎Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and IDF Spokesperson ‎Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis held a special press ‎conference at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv ‎Tuesday, in which they elaborated on the operation.‎

“This morning, the IDF launched a ‎campaign to expose and neutralize a network of ‎cross-border terror tunnels built by Hezbollah with ‎direct support and funding from Iran,” Netanyahu ‎said. ‎

“[The tunnels] were built with one purpose in mind—‎to attack and murder innocent Israeli men, women and ‎children. This is a grave violation of Israel’s ‎sovereignty and a gross violation of U.N. Security ‎Council Resolution 1701. It is an unacceptable act ‎of wanton aggression,” he said.‎

“The terror tunnel that was exposed today was built ‎under a home in a civilian neighborhood in southern ‎Lebanon,” continued the prime minister. “Now, this is just one more example of how ‎Hezbollah is committing a double war crime. They ‎target civilians while hiding behind civilians. And ‎this must be condemned loudly and clearly by all ‎nations that care about peace, freedom and human ‎dignity.”

“I have a message for the people of Lebanon: ‎Hezbollah is putting your lives in danger. They are ‎sacrificing your well-being to serve the aggressive ‎purposes of Iran. Israel holds the Lebanese ‎government accountable for all terror activity ‎emanating from Lebanon against Israel.‎

“Like any other nation, Israel maintains the right ‎to defend itself,” he asserted. “We will continue to ‎do all that is necessary to defend ourselves against ‎Iran’s efforts to use Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as ‎terrorist bases to attack Israel.‎ Just as we have exposed and dismantled terror ‎tunnels build by Hamas under our border with Gaza, ‎we will expose and dismantle the terror tunnels of ‎Hezbollah alongside our border with Lebanon.”

Hezbollah tunneling project a well-kept secret

Netanyahu, who on Monday met with U.S. Secretary of ‎State Mike Pompeo in Brussels, said the two ‎discussed “imposing new sanctions against Hezbollah ‎after this act of aggression. I will also speak in ‎the coming days with other world leaders along the ‎same lines, including U.N. Secretary General António ‎Guterres.”

The prime minister said he has ordered the Israeli ‎mission to the United Nations to call on the Security Council ‎to convene an urgent meeting to discuss Hezbollah ‎and its actions.‎ He also noted that the decision to greenlight the ‎operation was made by the Diplomatic-Security ‎Cabinet weeks ago. ‎

Lauding IDF activities, Netanyahu stressed that ‎‎“Hezbollah knows that anyone who attacks Israel will ‎be made to pay a heavy price. Israel will continue ‎to do all that is necessary to protect our people ‎and defend our borders.”

Eizenkot noted that “since late 2014, an ‎intelligence, engineering and technological effort ‎has been made to track Hezbollah’s tunnel ‎enterprise. This morning [Tuesday], we launched an ‎operation aimed at removing this threat and ‎undermine Iran’s efforts to entrench its presence on ‎the northern border. ‎The operation was launched before the tunnel threat became ‎imminent on Israeli communities and bases near ‎the border. I want to express my great appreciation ‎to the troops on the ground. The IDF remains ready ‎for any development.‎”

Manelis ‎said that Hezbollah’s tunneling efforts were ‎discovered thanks to the IDF’s “painstaking work,” ‎adding it may be weeks before “Operation Northern ‎Shield” is concluded.‎

“This operation will take time, and we are preparing ‎for every scenario. Our grip of Hezbollah’s tunnel ‎project is very good. We launched this operation ‎before the tunnels became operational. At this time, ‎there is no subterranean threat from the Lebanese ‎border,” he said.‎

The IDF believes that Hezbollah’s tunneling project was a ‎well-kept secret even within the Shi’ite terrorist ‎group.‎

Defense officials said neutralizing the tunnels ‎would take several weeks, during which the IDF will ‎map them out and destroy them. ‎

Bracing for a potential border flare-up, the ‎‎military has bolstered deployment along the northern ‎‎frontier, including air defense systems as well as ‎‎regular and special forces. ‎

IDF Spokesman in Arabic Maj. Avichay Adraee posted a ‎message on Twitter warning the Lebanese army and ‎Hezbollah to stay away, saying: “Your lives are in ‎danger; you have been warned.”

Source » jns