Is­rael claims Syria airstrike, says hunt for Hezbol­lah tun­nels over

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Is­rael ac­knowl­edged on Sun­day that it car­ried out a week­end airstrike on what it called an Ira­nian arms cache in Syria, and that it also com­pleted a hunt for cross-bor­der tun­nels dug by Tehran-al­lied Le­banese Hezbol­lah guer­ril­las.

Long wary of pub­lic­ity around its op­er­a­tions against Iran-linked tar­gets on its north­ern front, Is­rael has been lift­ing the veil in re­cent days — a sign of con­fi­dence in a cam­paign waged amid oc­ca­sional ten­sion with Syria’s big-power backer, Rus­sia.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu may also be play­ing up his se­cu­rity cre­den­tials as he seeks re-elec­tion on April 9.

“We have been tak­ing ac­tion with im­pres­sive suc­cess to ar­rest Iran’s mil­i­tary en­trench­ment in Syria,” Ne­tanyahu told his Cab­i­net in tele­vised re­marks, say­ing this en­tailed “hun­dreds” of at­tacks over the past sev­eral years of Syria’s civil war, in which Ira­nian and Hezbol­lah forces have backed the Da­m­as­cus gov­ern­ment against rebels and mil­i­tant in­sur­gents.

“In just the last 36 hours, the air force struck Iran’s ware­houses, con­tain­ing Ira­nian arms, in Da­m­as­cus In­ter­na­tional Air­port,” he added, re­fer­ring to a Fri­day night sor­tie that Syria said it had an­swered with anti-air­craft fire.

Syr­ian state me­dia said at the time of the at­tack that the dam­age was lim­ited to a hit on a ware­house at Da­m­as­cus air­port.

Mis­sion un­der­ground

Ne­tanyahu cited an Is­raeli searc­hand- dis­man­tle mis­sion against sus­pected Hezbol­lah at­tack tun­nels along the bor­der with Le­banon that was launched in De­cem­ber and deemed com­pleted on Sun­day.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said a sixth tun­nel was found on Satur­day, 55 me­ters deep and reach­ing “a few tens of me­ters” into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory from 800 me­ters within Le­banon.

“Ac­cord­ing to our as­sess­ments, there are no longer any tun­nels cross­ing into Is­rael,” mil­i­tary spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Con­ri­cus said. He added that Hezbol­lah re­tained un­der­ground fa­cil­i­ties on the Le­banese side.

Hezbol­lah has not com­mented on the tun­nels, the ex­is­tence of sev­eral of which was con­firmed by UN peace­keep­ers in Le­banon.

Hezbol­lah and Is­rael last fought a war in 2006. While they have at times traded blows within Syria and the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied Golan Heights, the Is­rael-Le­banon bor­der has mostly been quiet.

The tun­nels were pre­pared in se­cret, over a pe­riod of years, said Is­rael’s out­go­ing armed forces chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.

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