Northern Shield: Israel launches op to cut off Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanese border

Northern Shield: Israel launches op to cut off Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanese border
The Israel Defense Forces have begun an operation to destroy cross-border tunnels that the military claims are used by Hezbollah militants to make incursions into Israeli territory.

The military says the installations could be used by Hezbollah militants as part of their “offensive plan.”

“The digging of tunnels constitutes a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty,” said Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, the IDF spokesperson, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

Some areas along Lebanon’s border have been declared a closed military zone where the IDF is beefing up its presence. The offensive will involve troops from the Israeli Army’s Northern Command as well as Combat Engineering Corps.

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The IDF claimed Hezbollah has spent years digging up the tunnels and nurturing plans of invading Israel. It also accused the Lebanon government for failing to bring the militant movement under control. There is no immediate response from Beirut so far.

Despite the military closing certain areas on the border, there were no special instructions for people living in the north of Israel. According to Israeli media, the tunnels are built from durable concrete and have secondary escape shafts. They are also said to have a 24-hour power supply via underground generators as well as a ventilation system.

The IDF targets cross-border underground facilities from time to time. Earlier in May, the troops destroyed a “Palestinian terror tunnel” that stretched nearly 1km into Israeli territory. The tunnel was targeted after dozens of mortars and projectiles were reportedly fired at Israel from inside Gaza.

The Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers stationed along the border with Israel have ramped up patrols in the wake of the statement from Israel, a statement from the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission said on Tuesday.

Israel and Lebanon have been hostile towards each other for decades. The border between them, called the Blue Line, was finalized in 2000 by the UN as part of Israel, compliance with a UN Security Resolution, which was adopted two decades prior and ordered the Jewish state to withdraw troops from southern Lebanon.

The latest major flare-up between Israel and Lebanon came in 2006, with neither the IDF and nor the Lebanese and Hezbollah troops managing to get an upper hand. Cross-border clashes have been happening every few years since. Israeli warplanes also routinely intrude Lebanese airspace, including as part of raids on targets in Syria to the east.

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