Is­rael goes on the of­fen­sive against tun­nels

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD - (Reuters)

IS­RAEL has launched an op­er­a­tion to “ex­pose and thwart” cross-bor­der tun­nels from Le­banon dug by Hezbol­lah.

The army la­beled the op­er­a­tion “North­ern Shield” and said all ac­tiv­i­ties would take place within Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, though they still raised the risk of a re­sponse from Hezbol­lah.

The bor­der fron­tier ap­peared calm in the hours af­ter the an­nounce­ment, de­spite fear that it could lead to con­fronta­tion.

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from Hezbol­lah.

A Le­banese army source said the sit­u­a­tion was calm on its side of the bor­der, as did UN peace­keep­ers.

Is­rael re­leased video footage of dig­ging and pile-driving equip­ment at work in uniden­ti­fied lo­ca­tions, car­ry­ing out what it said were “tac­ti­cal prepa­ra­tions to ex­pose Hezbol­lah’s of­fen­sive cross-bor­der tun­nel pro­ject.”

It later pub­lished a pho­to­graph of a tun­nel that it said it had un­cov­ered.

Is­rael said the tun­nel orig­i­nated un­der a house near the Le­banese vil­lage of Kfar Kela and crossed the bor­der near Is­rael’s north­ern­most town, Me­tula.

Is­rael and Hezbol­lah have avoided any ma­jor con­flict across the Le­banese-Is­raeli bor­der since their last war in 2006, though Is­rael has mounted at­tacks in Syria tar­get­ing what it said were ad­vanced weapon de­liv­er­ies to the Shi’ite Mus­lim group.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu met US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo in Brussels on Mon­day to up­date him on the im­mi­nent tun­nel op­er­a­tion.

“Who­ever tries to harm Is­rael will pay a heavy price,” Ne­tanyahu said af­ter re­turn­ing to Is­rael early in the morn­ing.

White House gave its full back­ing to the op­er­a­tion, with Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton say­ing “we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their re­gional ag­gres­sion and provo­ca­tion.”

The mil­i­tary said the tun­nels were not yet op­er­a­tional but posed “an im­mi­nent threat” to Is­raeli civil­ians, and con­sti­tuted “a fla­grant and se­vere vi­o­la­tion of Is­raeli sovereignty.”

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

The op­er­a­tion could take weeks.

Its Ara­bic me­dia spokesman posted a mes­sage on Twit­ter warn­ing the Le­banese army and Hezbol­lah to stay away.

“Your lives are in dan­ger, you have been warned,” it stated.

In Septem­ber, Ne­tanyahu iden­ti­fied three lo­ca­tions in Le­banon where, he said, Hezbol­lah was con­vert­ing “in­ac­cu­rate pro­jec­tiles” into pre­ci­sion-guided mis­siles. Last month he also hinted at an up­com­ing Is­raeli of­fen­sive dur­ing a tele­vised ad­dress, but did not give de­tails.

Last year, Hezbol­lah’s leader said any fu­ture con­flict with Is­rael could take place in­side Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, and there would be “no place that is out of reach of the rock­ets of the resistance or the boots of the resistance fight­ers.”

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.