The construction of Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels began before the start of the 2006 Second Lebanon War and not three or four years ago as the army has claimed, Channel 13 news reported on Wednesday.
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the report.
According to the television report, the then-head of the army’s Northern Command, Benny Gantz, was warned in 2005 that Hezbollah tunnels were being dug into Israel.
The warning came from the adviser to the IDF chief of staff on the tunnel threat, Col. Yossi Langotsky.
The IDF apparently ignored the information.
The military on Sunday declared that its effort to find and destroy Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels was ending, following the discovery of another such underground passage over the weekend.
“With the discovery of this terror tunnel, the effort to locate the passages dug by Hezbollah that crossed the border into Israeli territory has been completed. The neutralization of this passage will be completed in the coming days,” the army said in a statement.
“According to our intelligence and our assessment of the situation there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon into Israel,” army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.
According to Channel 13, although all of the underground passages running from Lebanon to Israel have now been discovered, there still remain a number of tunnels which do not cross the border and which the IDF has asked the Lebanese government and army to destroy.
On December 4, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to find tunnels that it says the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group had dug into northern Israel from towns in southern Lebanon.
The military confirmed discovering at least six tunnels during the month-long operation.
“In addition, the IDF is monitoring and is in possession of a number of sites where Hezbollah is digging underground infrastructure that has yet to cross into Israeli territory,” the army said.
The sixth tunnel was found by Israeli troops on Saturday. According to the IDF, it originated in the Lebanese village of Ramyeh, where another tunnel had earlier been found.
The military said the tunnel extended some 800 meters (2,600 feet), penetrating several dozen meters into Israeli territory, and was dug at a depth of 55 meters (180 feet), making it the deepest tunnel uncovered by the IDF and likely the most valuable one to Hezbollah.
The tunnel had electricity, a rail system to move equipment and garbage, exit stairs and other aspects that made it more sophisticated than the other tunnels found, the army said.
“This was a highly advanced tunnel,” IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis told reporters.
Israel has said it believes the tunnels were meant to be used by the Shiite terrorist 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.
The military said it notified the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL of the new tunnel discovered over the weekend, as well as the heads of local governments in the area.
UNIFIL confirmed in mid-December that at least two tunnels crossed into Israel and were therefore in 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 Nations peacekeepers have stepped up patrols since the launch of the operation to ensure the frontier remains calm.
UN Resolution 1701 requires all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain north of the country’s Litani River. Despite the stipulations of the resolution, Hezbollah maintains vast forces, including an arsenal of rockets and missiles estimated at over 130,000 projectiles, in the country’s south, Israel believes.
With the end of Northern Shield, the IDF said it was moving to a defensive effort along the border to ensure that future tunnels are not dug into Israel from Lebanon.
“In addition, IDF troops and the tunnel-finding laboratory will continue serving permanently along the Lebanese border,” the army said.
Agencies and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.