Israel launches operation to cut off Hezbollah infiltration tunnels

Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) refused to say how many tunnels it had detected but said that several had already crossed beneath the ground from Lebanon into Israel.

The Israeli army said it launched an operation dubbed "Northern Shield" to destroy "attack tunnels" it accused the Iran-backed Lebanese militia of digging under the border.

The operation began early in the morning, when dozens of mechanical diggers assembled northwest of Metula, an Israeli town at the Lebanese border.

Despite the inherent risks, Israel's expectations for further escalation remain relatively low, mostly because the operation, for now, is constrained to the Israeli side and does not involve military attacks - at least not yet.

Within a few hours of the original announcement, the IDF said it had located a tunnel in Kfar Kela near Metulla, which sits right on the Lebanese border.

He claimed that Hezbollah has been developing an offensive plan that would "shift the battleground into Israel". He adds that military officials are urging people to go about their business as normal, saying the tunnels are not in use.

He said a task force established in 2014 has been searching for potential Hezbollah tunnels for more than two years.

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"There is no immediate threat to Israeli citizens", Conricus said of the Lebanese front, noting that while the army has enhanced its presence in the north, it has not summoned reserve soldiers. "The command pointed out that the army was ready for any emergency situations", the statement noted. "The tunnel extended from under a home in southern Lebanon, extending 600 feet through solid rock and penetrating into Israel", the report said.

The tunnels were dug "from within civilian houses in Lebanon into Israel", Conricus said, calling it a tactic that was born out of the end of the 2006 war.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hizbullah.

The operation comes weeks after Netanyahu faced a major crisis in his governing coalition over the handling of a cease-fire with Gaza militants. 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.

Hezbollah meanwhile has also been distracted by the war in Syria, where it has fought fiercely alongside Assad's troops.

"The Hezbollah terror organization, which is responsible for digging the cross-border attack tunnels, continues activity that is supported and funded by Iran, to establish its terror infrastructure against Israeli civilians". With Syria's civil war winding down, Hezbollah is now free to return its focus to Israel.

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