Army finds, destroys fifth attack tunnel from Lebanon

IDF says underground passage entered Israel, blames Lebanese government for ‘blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty’

The Israeli military announced Wednesday it had discovered a new cross-border attack tunnel from Lebanon, the fifth such subterranean passage it has uncovered since launching an operation to destroy the Hezbollah-dug tunnels.

The latest tunnel was dug from Ayta ash Shab, a village across the border from the farming community of Shtula, and entered Israeli territory, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF said the tunnel was found “a number of days ago” and has now been destroyed.

“A short while ago, the tunnel was neutralized by an explosion,” it said in a statement.

Regional council heads and the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Syria were notified ahead of the explosion, the military said.

The statement did not mention Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group Israel has accused of digging the other tunnels.

The IDF reiterated it holds Lebanon’s government responsible for the cross-border tunnels.

“This is another blatant violation of UN Resolution 1701 and of Israeli sovereignty,” it said, referring to a UN Security Council resolution ending the 2006 Lebanon War, that requires all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain north of the country’s Litani River.

The military also said it would continue its efforts to locate and destroy attack tunnels from Lebanon.

In this photo provided by the IDF on December 26, 2018, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strik, the head of the IDF’s Northern Command is seen during an operation to destroy a tunnel dug across the border from Lebanon. (IDF Spokesperson)

The announcement by the military comes a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was close to wrapping up the operation to find and eliminate the tunnels.

The IDF launched Operation Northern Shield earlier this month to track down the tunnels, which it says Hezbollah planned to use in an opening strike in a future war with Israel.

“This operation is almost entirely behind us,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.

“There is exceptional work being carried out here that has disarmed the Hezbollah tunnels,” he said. Hezbollah “invested heavily in [the project] and we destroyed it.”

Netanyahu made the comments while touring the northern border with other lawmakers, as they unofficially kicked off a campaign for re-election in which national security is expected to be a central issue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot deliver statements to the press at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2018 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

On Sunday IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot also said the operation was nearing completion.

“Most of the passages that enter Israel have been found, and I believe that we will complete this mission in the near future,” Eisenkot said.

However, during a tour of the northern border for journalists last week, a senior officer said the army was engaged in an open-ended effort.

“We are not restricted by time. It can take days, weeks, months. We will find all of them,” the officer said.

Israel has said it believes the tunnels were meant to be used by the Iran-backed terror group as a surprise component of an opening salvo in a future war, to allow dozens or hundreds of its fighters into Israel, alongside a mass infiltration of operatives above ground and the launching of rockets, missiles and mortar shells at northern Israel.

In this photo provided by the IDF on December 26, 2018, an Israeli soldier is seen a during an operation to destroy a tunnel dug across the border from Lebanon. (IDF Spokesperson)

The UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL confirmed last week that at least two of the tunnels crossed into Israel and were therefore a violation of the UN resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, but did not confirm Israel’s allegations they were dug by Hezbollah. United Nation peacekeepers have stepped up patrols since the launch of the operation to ensure the frontier remains calm.

The operation is taking place close to Lebanese territory, sometimes on the north side of the border wall, albeit still inside Israeli territory.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed