The IDF on Thursday said it had destroyed all of the attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kila into the northern Israeli border town of Metulla.
The army released photos and video footage that it said proved “without a doubt” that the tunnels were dug from Lebanon into Israel. It also revealed some of its methods to seal the passages — including pumping an unspecified, impenetrable “liquid ” into the tunnels, which, in some cases, gave away the location of the tunnels’ openings in civilian areas of southern Lebanon.
While it had finished its detection of tunnels from Kafr Kila, the IDF clarified that the broader Northern Shield Operation — which entered its 23rd day on Thursday — to locate and eliminate additional underground passages dug from other southern Lebanese villages was ongoing.
In a phone briefing to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus estimated that the army still needed an additional “few weeks” to complete the operation to destroy the Hezbollah-dug tunnels.
Conricus detailed the two methods the army has been using to neutralize the underground passages: the use of explosives to blow them up — blasts that have been documented in footage the army has distributed to the media — and the pumping of fluid into the tunnels that renders them impenetrable.
Conricus said the army has been able to pinpoint the origin points of the tunnels when the fluid seeped through to the openings on the Lebanese side.
“This fact points to Hezbollah’s use of civilian structures in the heart of built-up areas in southern Lebanon, endangering its citizens as human shields in grave violation of [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701,” the army said, referring to the UN measure ending the 2006 Lebanon War.
Conricus declined to specify the number of tunnels destroyed from Kafr Kila or the number of remaining tunnels left to neutralize in the entire operation.
One of those tunnels was found to have been dug underneath a chicken coop, the army spokesman said.
Citing a 2013 Hezbollah propaganda movie, Conricus claimed the tunnels were part of a three-pronged plan by the Iran-backed terror group to conquer the Galilee. Pointing to the video issued by the terror group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, the IDF spokesman said the invasion was slated to include a massive barrage of fire on northern Israel, a ground invasion by Hezbollah special forces and a stealthy underground invasion through the organization’s attack tunnels.
Conricus pointed out that when the movie introduces Hezbollah’s plan to conquer the Galilee, the focus was other areas of northern Israel that it intended to attack, but Metulla was omitted.
“This indicated that they were trying to surprise us there,” Conricus said, regarding the tunnels discovered recently in the northern Israeli town.
The army spokesman clarified that while Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the attack tunnels being dug from its sovereign territory, it was clear that Hezbollah was digging the passages.
“The uncovering and destruction of the tunnels has brought significant harm to Hezbollah’s ability to realize its plans,” the IDF said in a statement on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the IDF announced that it had found a fifth subterranean passage dug from Lebanon since the start of Operation Northern Shield. 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.
Ayta ash Shab is located southwest of Kafr Kila. The IDF said the tunnel was found “a number of days ago” and has now been destroyed.
Regional council heads and the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Syria were notified ahead of the explosion, the military said.
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. 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.
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.
The UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL confirmed 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.