PM: Thanks to Israel, Hezbollah has dozens of precision missiles, not thousands

PM: Thanks to Israel, Hezbollah has dozens of precision missiles, not thousands

Netanyahu hints at Mossad involvement in operations that have thwarted the transfer of weaponry to the Iran-backed terror group

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks out of a helicopter as he arrives in northern Israel, December 6, 2018 (Amit Shabi/Yedioth Ahronoth/POOL)
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 claimed Thursday evening that Hezbollah currently has only several dozen precision-guided missiles, with Israeli security forces — including the Mossad spying agency — having stopped the Lebanese terror group obtaining thousands of such projectiles.

Netanyahu spoke several days after Israel launched an operation to find and destroy Hezbollah tunnels, with two such passages said uncovered so far.

The Israeli military has said it believes the tunnels were meant to be used by Hezbollah as a surprise component of an opening salvo in a future war, alongside the mass infiltration of operatives above ground and the launching of rockets, missiles, and mortar shells at northern Israel.

“Hezbollah has two tools [of attack],” Netanyahu said at an award ceremony for exceptional Mossad operatives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. “One tool is tunnels, and we are depriving them of that.

“The other weapon is rockets, an imprecise weapon, but they also want precision weapons,” he added. “This radically changes the balance of power.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, and holds up a placard detailing alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

“According to Hezbollah’s plans, they were already supposed to be equipped with thousands of missiles, but right now they only have a few dozen. The reason that they only have a few dozen is, among others, sitting here in this room,” Netanyahu told the Mossad servicemen and women.

“It is the combination of the Mossad, the IDF, and our entire security system. We are depriving them of that weapon as well, not absolutely, but to a very impressive extent,” he boasted.

“As someone who approves countless operations of yours, I want to tell you that I am proud of you and believe in you and [to tell you] how proud the people of Israel are of you,” he concluded. “The Mossad is fantastic and you are fantastic.”

In this April 1996 file photo, two Hezbollah fighters stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, file)

Many shipments of advanced missiles are said to have been bombed by Israel on the way from Iran to Lebanon, mostly through Syria.

During his September speech at the UN, Netanyahu revealed the existence of what he said were three sites in Beirut that were being used by the Iran-backed terror group to hide underground precision missile production facilities.

The Israeli military on Thursday said it had located a second Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel in the western Galilee, after uncovering an underground passage two days earlier in the eastern part of the region.

The tunnel originated in the Lebanese village of Ramyeh underneath a number of homes and crossed into Israeli territory near the village of Zarit, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli soldiers show UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col a Hezbollah tunnel that penetrated Israeli territory from southern Lebanon on December 6, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The first tunnel was discovered south of the Israeli village of Metulla in the northern tip of the Galilee panhandle.

A senior Israeli official on Thursday said the tunnels discovered inside Israel were large enough to be used by “entire battalions” to enter Israeli territory in order to “carry out killing sprees and kidnappings and to capture Israeli towns and villages.”

Netanyahu elaborated, in a briefing to foreign envoys at the northern border: “If you look at the Hamas tunnels, they’re very narrow, basically for one person. The Hezbollah tunnels are broad. They enable several people to come at one and also to put motorcycles, I’m pretty sure tractors and so on.

This, Netanyahu said, was “in order to bring in many forces, simultaneously, which means several battalions into our territory, with the purpose of cutting off communities here, towns, kibbutzim, and then going into a campaign of murder and kidnapping, which could happen simultaneously.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, visits soldiers searching for Hezbollah attack tunnels on Israeli-Lebanese border on December 4, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The number of tunnels the IDF believes the Lebanese terror group has dug into Israel, as well as other information connected to the army’s tunnel-busting operation, cannot be published by order of the military censor.

Earlier on Thursday, a senior Israeli official threatened that the IDF may be forced to extend its current tunnel-busting operation across the border and into Lebanese territory.

“It is possible that we will be required to act inside Lebanon,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Operation Northern Shield was launched earlier this week due to the fear that the details of the operation would be leaked and revealed to Hezbollah, the senior official said.

“If Hezbollah knew that we knew [about the existence of the tunnels] then this would accelerate their kidnapping efforts, and we did not want to get to a situation where the kidnappers infiltrate into Israel and abduct a soldier or a civilian, and no one would know anything about it,” the senior official said.

The decision to embark on the operation was made on November 7, and was one of the reasons the cabinet decided not to launch a major military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, the official added. “There were other reasons, too, but that was one of them,” he said.

Judah Ari Gross and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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