This week, Israel announced the launch of “Northern Shield,” an operation designed to target tunnels built by Hezbollah militants to gain entry into Israel.
A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that the operation is underway in Israel, and had been planned for some five years, according to Asia Times on Tuesday.
Another spokesman for the Israeli military called the tunnels a “severe violation of Israeli sovereignty,” and noted that they are “funded by Iranian money.”
Further, Israel argues that the tunnels violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, which do not permit authorities other than the Lebanon government to carry out such offensives.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 4, 2018
Israel’s plan is “to expose and to destroy cross-border attack tunnels,” Israeli Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus explained Tuesday, according to Newsweek. The tunnels reportedly begin in Lebanon.
The IDF released video this week showing an individual – who they claim to be a Hezbollah operative – traveling through one of the tunnels.
Israel reportedly requested operational permission from the Trump Administration, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Tuesday, during which he was suspected to have discussed the situation.
Netanyahu issued a public message to Hezbollah, saying, “Israel also knows what you’re doing, Israel knows where you’re doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it.”
“These cross-border terror tunnels were built by Hezbollah with a direct support and funding from Iran. They were built with one purpose in mind: to attack and murder innocent Israeli men, women, and children,” he also said on Tuesday.
Lebanon is perceiving Israel’s action as a potential threat, to which they have responded with military surveillance. However, a statement from Lebanon’s military assured that “the situation on the Lebanese side is calm and stable, and is being closely monitored.”
“The army units deployed in the area are carrying out their usual tasks along the border in cooperation and coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to prevent any escalation or destabilization in the south,” the statement explained. “This command indicates that the army is fully prepared to face any emergency.”
Days earlier, Hezbollah issued a warning against Israel, who has been considering launching attacks on key Hezbollah locations inside Lebanon.
“Attack and you will regret it,” Hezbollah said.
— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) December 5, 2018
Israel and Lebanon have a history of assaults on one another.
Although a ceasefire has remained in place for more than a decade, the two countries have had occasional encounters attributed to Hezbollah’s Syrian-linked operations, as well as that of other terror groups backed by Iran.
Iran has frequently traveled through Lebanon’s airspace in their 200+ airstrikes carried out on key Iranian sites in Syria.
Hezbollah has persisted as a major group in their home country of Lebanon, often striking out at perceived threats, including U.N. peacekeeping troops.
Hezbollah’s tunnels date back several decades, with some even acting as exhibits in a museum in southern Lebanon, according to The Independent.
The tunnels were used to secretly transport Hezbollah fighters during Israel’s occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000.
After the withdrawal, Hezbollah continued building more tunnels, reportedly having hundreds more in a complex network that remains undiscovered by Israeli forces.
“Between 2000 and 2006, Hezbollah constructed a very elaborate and comprehensive underground infrastructure in the south Lebanon border district, consisting of bunkers and tunnel networks,” said Nicholas Blanford, the author of “Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel.”
“They were able to launch rockets from underground facilities close to the border with Israel and to ambush Israeli troops that penetrated Lebanese territory,” he added.
Israel has destroyed one tunnel so far, which originated in a home near the Lebanese town of Kfar Kala.