IDF urges Lebanese residents to leave 2 towns over ‘explosive’ Hezbollah tunnels
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'Hezbollah put an explosive barrel under your homes'

IDF urges Lebanese residents to leave 2 towns over ‘explosive’ Hezbollah tunnels

Military spokesperson tells residents of border-area Kfar Kila and Ramya that the army does not know what will happen to their homes, as IDF tracks, destroys attack tunnels

Israeli machinery operates next to a concrete wall separating Israel and Lebanon, in a photograph taken from the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, near the border with Israel, on December 9, 2018. (Ali Dia/AFP)
Israeli machinery operates next to a concrete wall separating Israel and Lebanon, in a photograph taken from the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, near the border with Israel, on December 9, 2018. (Ali Dia/AFP)

The Israeli Army on Sunday urged residents of two Lebanese border towns to evacuate their homes, telling them that the Hezbollah terrorist group had put them in danger by digging attack tunnels, from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, which the IDF is currently working to destroy.

IDF Arabic spokesman Avichay Adraee told residents of Kfar Kila and Ramya in a series of tweets that the army did not know how their homes would be impacted by the demolition of the underground passages running beneath their towns, but suggested they leave the area until after the ongoing military operation.

“Hezbollah put an explosive barrel under your homes,” Adraee posted. “We do not know what the consequences of the operations will be for the homes on the Lebanese side.”

In a post targeting residents of Ramya, Adraee added: “Considering what you know about what is happening under your homes, are you certain that living in them is safe?”

Photos of the towns accompanying the tweets circled in red specific areas in the towns they believed would be most affected, telling those residents their “lives are in danger.”

The posts come as part of an apparent effort by the IDF, and Adraee in particular, to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and Lebanese citizens. It does appear to be a concrete warning to the residents to leave their homes immediately, but it does not follow army protocol for such a warning.

The posts nonetheless come amid rising tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where the IDF is waging a campaign to find and destroy what is says is a network of tunnels dug under the border by the Iranian-backed group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet on Sunday evening to discuss the IDF campaign dubbed Operation Northern Shield.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said the ministers were briefed on the IDF operation and the progress of the demolition.

Israeli troops search for a Hezbollah border-crossing attack tunnel from southern Lebanon, along the northern border, on December 8, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Tuesday, Israel announced it had launched an open-ended operation to uncover and destroy the network of subterranean passages dug by Hezbollah into Israel. That day, troops uncovered their first tunnel, which originated inside the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila and penetrated Israeli territory south of the town of Metulla.

On Saturday, the IDF exposed another cross-border attack tunnel built by Hezbollah that extended into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon.

The army said Hezbollah intended to use the passageways in a future war to infiltrate into Israel and launch surprise attacks.

The number of tunnels the IDF believes Hezbollah has dug under the border, as well as other information connected to its tunnel-busting operation, have been barred from publication by the military censor.

The tunnels’s discovery and the subsequent IDF operation to destroy them has raised the specter of renewed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks out of a helicopter as he arrives in northern Israel, December 6, 2018. (Amit Shabi/Yedioth Ahronoth/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the operation will go on for as long as needed, and called on the international community to respond to the attack tunnels by imposing additional sanctions on Hezbollah.

“I told the ambassadors that they need to unequivocally condemn this aggression against us by Iran, by Hezbollah and by Hamas, and of course, to also strengthen the sanctions against these elements,” Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors on a tour of the border on Thursday.

Netanyahu also said he will demand the UN Security Council discuss the matter.

He said that at the end of the operation, the tunnels “will no longer exist and will no longer be effective.”

Israeli officials have indicated that the IDF may operate within Lebanese territory destroy the tunnels.

On Friday, Israel Katz, who heads the intelligence and transport ministries, told Radio Tel Aviv that an incursion into Lebanon was possible.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers patrol along the border wall with Israel near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila on December 4, 2018. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

“If we think that in order to thwart the tunnels that one needs to operate on the other side, then we will operate on the other side of the border,” Katz said.

An IDF incursion into Lebanon could spark a major confrontation with the Iran-backed terrorist militia.

Ramping up tensions further, Hezbollah deputy secretary general Naim Qassem warned Israel over the weekend that all of its territory, “even Tel Aviv,” was vulnerable to the group’s immense arsenal of over 100,000 rockets.

In the interview published Saturday in the Arabic-language Iranian news outlet Al-Wefak, Qassem added: “There is no point in the Zionist entity that is not in the range of Hezbollah’s rockets.”

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