Is­rael finds sixth tun­nel used by mil­i­tants

■ Fi­nal Hezbol­lah tun­nel largest so far, run­ning deep into Is­rael

Irish Examiner - - World - Aron Heller

Is­raeli troops have dis­cov­ered the sixth and fi­nal tun­nel dug by Hezbol­lah mil­i­tants for cross-bor­der at­tacks, of­fi­cials said.

The fi­nal tun­nel was the largest one dis­cov­ered so far, run­ning hun­dreds of me­tres from un­der a Le­banese home and deep into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, mil­i­tary spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Con­ri­cus said.

Is­rael launched Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield early last month to de­tect and de­stroy what it called a vast net­work of Hezbol­lah tun­nels aimed at help­ing mil­i­tants sneak across the bor­der to carry out at­tacks.

Lt Gen Con­ri­cus said the lat­est tun­nel orig­i­nated from the Le­banese bor­der town of Ramyeh.

It was 55 me­tres deep and ran 800 me­tres in­side Le­banese ter­ri­tory and also “dozens” of me­tres into Is­rael, he said.

It in­cluded stairs, a rail sys­tem and a wide a pas­sage­way that al­lowed for the move­ment of equip­ment and a large num­ber of forces.

The tun­nel would be de­stroyed in the com­ing days, Lt Gen Con­ri­cus said, adding that while more tun­nels still ex­isted on the Le­banese side of the bor­der, this ef­fec­tively marked the end of the am­bi­tious mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.

“We have achieved the goal that we set out to achieve a month and a half ago,” he said.

“Ac­cord­ing to our in­tel­li­gence, there are no longer any cross-bor­der at­tack tun­nels into Is­rael.”

Is­rael and the United Na­tions say the tun­nels vi­o­late a cease­fire res­o­lu­tion that ended a dev­as­tat­ing war be­tween Is­rael and Hezbol­lah in 2006.

Lt Gen Con­ri­cus says the UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion, known as Unifil, had been up­dated on the lat­est de­vel­op­ment.

The pow­er­ful Shi’ite mil­i­tant Hezbol­lah, which acts in­de­pen­dently in Le­banon, has yet to com­ment on the Is­raeli dis­cov­er­ies.

Is­rael has long called for a crack­down on the Iran-backed Hezbol­lah, a heav­ily armed mini-army that is be­lieved to pos­sess an arse­nal of some 150,000 rock­ets that can reach nearly all of Is­rael.

In re­cent years, Hezbol­lah has been bogged down in fight­ing in Syria on be­half of Syr­ian pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment. But with that civil war wind­ing down, Is­raeli se­cu­rity of­fi­cials fear Hezbol­lah is re­fo­cus­ing its at­ten­tion on Is­rael.

In the wake of its dis­cov­er­ies, Is­rael has asked the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to im­pose tough sanc­tions on Hezbol­lah and be­gin to act against its state-within-as­tate op­er­a­tion in Le­banon.

The mil­i­tary said its forces would stay de­ployed along the bor­der area to mon­i­tor for any other pos­si­ble un­der­ground ac­tiv­ity, and said it holds the Le­banese gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing in its ter­ri­tory.

Pic­ture: AP /Se­bas­tian Scheiner

Is­raeli sol­diers at the open­ing of a hole that leads to the the sixth and fi­nal tun­nel that the army says Hezbol­lah uses to crosses from Le­banon to Is­rael and stage at­tacks.

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