IDF an­nounces end to Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield,

Sixth cross-bor­der Hezbol­lah tun­nel was dis­cov­ered over week­end and will be de­stroyed in com­ing days

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

The IDF an­nounced the end of Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield on Sun­day after it dis­cov­ered a sixth cross-bor­der at­tack tun­nel be­long­ing to Hezbol­lah in north­ern Is­rael.

Ac­cord­ing to the mil­i­tary, the tun­nel was the largest tun­nel dis­cov­ered so far, stretch­ing hun­dreds of me­ters from the south­ern Le­banese vil­lage of Ramiya and in­fil­trated sev­eral dozen me­ters into north­ern Is­rael.

The tun­nel, which had been dug at a depth of 55 me­ters (180 feet), was the most im­por­tant one de­tected since the op­er­a­tion be­gan in De­cem­ber, IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ro­nen Manelis said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the stairs were built in the tun­nel which con­tained “rail­roads to trans­port equip­ment, garbage, light­ing equip­ment and lad­ders to en­ter Is­raeli ter­ri­tory. A lot of re­sources were in­vested in this tun­nel.”

With the dis­cov­ery of this lat­est tun­nel and its de­struc­tion set for the com­ing days, he added, “the threat posed by the tun­nels has been elim­i­nated.”

Is­rael launched Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield in early De­cem­ber to dis­cover and de­stroy tun­nels dug by the Le­banese Shi’ite ter­ror group into north­ern Is­rael. The IDF has so far de­stroyed at least four cross-bor­der tun­nels, two by ex­plo­sives and an­other two by flood­ing with liq­uid con­crete.

Le­banon’s Na­har­net news site said that Is­rael poured liq­uid con­crete into a tun­nel on Fri­day near the vil­lage of Adais­seh, across from the Is­raeli town of Mis­gav Am.

“Op­er­a­tion North­ern Shield de­prived Hezbol­lah of the unique of­fen­sive abil­i­ties it had built for years as part of its planned at­tack on Is­raeli ter­ri­tory,” the army said in a state­ment, adding that “the op­er­a­tion re­flected ad­vanced op­er­a­tional and in­tel­li­gence tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and multi-stage de­tec­tion of un­der­ground ar­eas that have de­vel­oped even more over the past few weeks.”

While the mil­i­tary an­nounced the end of the op­er­a­tion, it noted that it “is si­mul­ta­ne­ously mon­i­tor­ing sev­eral lo­ca­tions where Hezbol­lah is dig­ging un­der­ground struc­tures which have yet to cross into Is­rael.”

It will also con­tinue a “broad de­fense ef­fort” along the Le­banese bor­der to en­sure that Hezbol­lah does not try to dig fu­ture tun­nels into Is­rael by in­te­grat­ing var­i­ous means such as the on­go­ing con­struc­tion of the bor­der wall with Le­banon.

“In ad­di­tion, troops and the tun­nel-find­ing lab­o­ra­tory will con­tinue serv­ing per­ma­nently along the Le­banese bor­der,” the army said, adding that “The IDF is de­ter­mined to pro­tect the cit­i­zens of Is­rael and will con­tinue to op­er­ate in the area and to mon­i­tor pos­si­ble un­der­ground ac­tiv­ity.”

THE LE­BANON state-run Na­tional News Agency quoted For­eign Min­is­ter Ge­bran Bas­sil as say­ing on Fri­day said the min­istry would file a com­plaint to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil against Is­rael’s con­struc­tion of the wall, say­ing that it vi­o­lates Res­o­lu­tion 1701 which ended the Sec­ond Le­banon War in 2006.

On Satur­day, UNIFIL spokesman An­drea Te­nenti said that ef­forts are be­ing made to avoid any “mis­un­der­stand­ing and find a mu­tual so­lu­tions for the is­sue,” and that “our sol­diers are on the ground to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion and main­tain calm along the Blue Line,” he said.

The mil­i­tary said on Sun­day that it no­ti­fied the UN peace­keep­ing force of the tun­nel dis­cov­ered over the week­end, as well as the heads of lo­cal gov­ern­ments in the area. UNIFIL has con­firmed the ex­is­tence of four tun­nels, two of which crossed the Blue Line in vi­o­la­tion of res­o­lu­tion 1701.

Last week, UNIFIL Com­man­der Maj.-Gen. Ste­fano Del Col chaired the first tri­par­tite meet­ing of the year with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the IDF and Le­banese Armed Forces to dis­cuss the cross bor­der tun­nels as well as other vi­o­la­tions.

“I again call on the par­ties to make full use of UNIFIL’s li­ai­son and co­or­di­na­tion ar­range­ments,” said Del Col. “Any ac­tiv­ity close to the Blue Line should be pre­dictable, with suf­fi­cient prior no­ti­fi­ca­tion to al­low UNIFIL to duly in­form the other party and so that co­or­di­nated se­cu­rity ar­range­ments could be put in place to pre­vent in­ci­dents or vi­o­la­tions.”

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary has re­peat­edly warned that the Le­banese gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the dig­ging of the tun­nels which they say were part of a Hezbol­lah plan to at­tack com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Is­rael.

The mil­i­tary be­lieves that the at­tack tun­nels were built as a clas­si­fied com­po­nent of Hezbol­lah’s “Con­quer the Galilee” plan, which would have al­lowed the group’s elite Rad­wan fight­ers to in­fil­trate into Is­rael on land and fire short­range rocket and mor­tars, as well as al­low­ing other Rad­wan fight­ers to in­fil­trate into com­mu­ni­ties, cut them off from Route 90 and kill as many civil­ians and troops as pos­si­ble.

Thou­sands of rock­ets were ex­pected to be launched to­ward the Jew­ish state by the Ira­nian-backed Shi’ite army within the first cou­ple of hours of such a con­flict.

(Ro­nen Zvu­lun/Reuters)

IS­RAELI DRILLING equip­ment works to lo­cate and de­stroy Hezbol­lah at­tack tun­nels next to the se­cu­rity bar­rier with Le­banon last month.

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