IDF says Hezbollah, undeterred after recent setbacks, beefing up border presence
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IDF says Hezbollah, undeterred after recent setbacks, beefing up border presence

A year after military began operation to destroy terror group’s attack tunnels and despite internal Lebanese woes, Hezbollah still ‘plans to attack’ Israel, officer says

A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

A year after uncovering a network of cross-border Hezbollah tunnels, the Israel Defense Forces said Thursday that the Lebanese terror group has beefed up its presence along the volatile frontier.

Military officials said that neither the destruction of the tunnels, nor Hezbollah’s recent domestic problems, have weakened the group’s desire to prepare for renewed conflict with Israel.

“We have a very serious enemy,” said Col. Roy Levy, the Northern Border Brigade commander, during a tour of the area. He said the terror group’s main focus is to entrench itself along the border area and “plan to attack us.”

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a UN-brokered ceasefire. While direct fighting has been rare since then, there has been occasional violence, most recently on September 1 when Hezbollah fired a barrage of anti-tank missiles into the country and Israel responded with artillery fire.

Col. Roy Levy, the commander of the IDF’s Northern Border Brigade, speaks inside a tunnel that the army says crosses from Lebanon to Israel, December 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Patty Nieberg)

Israel also has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in neighboring Syria, many of them believed to have been aimed at Iranian weapons shipments bound for its Hezbollah proxy.

Israel considers Hezbollah to be its most immediate threat, saying the group has amassed an arsenal of some 130,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel. More recently, it has accused the group of trying to import or develop guided missiles.

Last December, Israel announced that it had uncovered a network of tunnels that it said Hezbollah was building with the aim of infiltrating and carrying out terror attacks. Over several months, it systematically destroyed the structures.

Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels, though the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL has said the group violated the 2006 ceasefire.

In recent years, Israel says Hezbollah has taken over houses in southern Lebanese border villages to hide soldiers, ammunition, cameras and intelligence-gathering equipment.

Levy pointed across the tree-lined frontier to several small shacks that he said were Hezbollah positions, just a few hundred meters away from Israeli residents. “Civilians, farmers, children drive here every day,” he said.

IDF reveals what it says is the longest cross-border attack tunnel dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel, May 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to the loss of its tunnels, Hezbollah has suffered other setbacks in recent months. Its patron Iran, suffering from US sanctions, is currently being rocked by mass demonstrations in which over 200 people have reportedly been killed.

Lebanon has also experienced nationwide protests over the past two months against widespread corruption and mismanagement. Some of that anger has been directed toward Hezbollah, which is now seen as part of the ruling class that has wrecked the country’s economy.

But Levy said he has seen no changes in the group’s behavior.

“They have a lot of cameras, a lot of forces along the border, camouflaged,” he said.

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