White House 'strongly' supports Israel action against Hezbollah tunnels

Larry Hoffman
December 5, 2018

Israel's vulnerability to tunnels was laid bare during its war with Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza in 2014 when Palestinian militants used dozens of secret passages dug from Gaza into Israel to launch surprise attacks.

Israeli army spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said the "attack tunnels" detected were not yet operational.

"All of that allowed us this morning to launch an operation based on a good picture we've constructed in an effort to expose (Hezbollah's) project and neutralize it".

A Lebanese military official told The Associated Press that Lebanese troops and military intelligence agents, along with United Nations peacekeepers deployed in southern Lebanon, were observing the border on Tuesday.

Israeli officials have long warned the threat posed by Gaza's Hamas rulers pales in comparison to that of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah - a heavily-armed mini-army with valuable combat experience and an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach almost every part of Israel.

The army declared the town of Metulla, located on the Israeli-Lebanese border not far from the occupied Golan Heights, a closed military zone.

According to Conricus, the tunnels were part of a Hezbollah plan from 2012 to "shift the battlefield to Israel" and "conquer the Galilee" in a future conflict by infiltrating its territory.

Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.

"We see the Hezbollah activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli authority", told Reuters.

Suggesting the military operation had been long-planned, the newspaper also said military censors had recently imposed "heavy restrictions" that limited its ability to report on the IDF's plan to destroy the tunnels.

It said the army had boosted its presence and readiness and was prepared for "various scenarios".

Netanyahu has spoken of a sensitive security situation in recent days without providing details, particularly after his Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned over a controversial Gaza ceasefire last month.

The premier had said that polls now would be "irresponsible" due to undefined security threats.

Suspicious timing: In Israel and Lebanon, critics of Netanyahu's government are questioning the timing of the operation just as police have recommended that the prime minister be indicted on bribery charges.

Israel views the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its vast weapons cache as a major threat.

What's next: Nasrallah is expected to give a speech in Lebanon this evening in response to the Israeli operation.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

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