Hezbollah had an extensive program to built attack tunnels capable of transferring large numbers of terrorists into northern Israel in a short amount of time.

The project, if ever used in war, would have allowed Hezbollah to score a short-term military, and long-term propaganda, victory by seizing towns and territory within Israel. Hezbollah many times has threatened to take the ground war into Israel, and tunnels were to play a key role as they do for Hamas in Gaza.

Several days ago Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to reveal to the world the cross-border tunnels, and to destroy what was found. We covered the operation in these prior posts:

Amos Harel at Haaretz discusses how the anti-tunnel operation came to be:

When Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah first began issuing threats about his organization’s intention “to conquer the Galilee” in the next war, Israel was initially dismissive. But after Nasrallah kept saying the same thing in public, Israel’s military intelligence seriously set about trying to decipher his meaning.

Why would Nasrallah boast in this way when the most his organization could hope to do was send a few cells of attackers across the border for a surprise attack on a single community? Even Hezbollah couldn’t turn a few rocket barrages on the Israeli home front into a victory photo.

The answer gradually became clear only after the 2014 Gaza war. Israel realized that Hezbollah was aiming to copy the Hamas model of attack tunnels, in a slightly different form.

The tunnels it dug, which apparently were fewer in number and shorter, were designed to meet the specific needs of the northern front: the quick and secret transfer of hundreds of fighters from the outskirts of the villages in southern Lebanon into Israel, thus to lay the groundwork for a wider ground offensive that would immediately follow….

The effort to locate the tunnels, which was coordinated by army intelligence and the IDF Northern Command with the aid of technology and engineering units, covered a very extensive area along 130 kilometers of the border fence. It was some time before a breakthrough was achieved….

The IDF spent many months searching before it found the tunnel next to Metula, whose entry shaft on the Lebanese side was dug beneath a cement block factory in Kafr Kila. When the army noticed that the factory was not receiving materials but just transporting cargo from the site on trucks, it realized what was really going on there.

By the summer, conditions were ripe to launch an engineering operation. Brig. Gen. Dror Shalom, head of Military Intelligence’s research department, felt that more information was still needed to have the most accurate intelligence and be certain that the tunnels would be found.

In September, the planned operation was presented to Netanyahu and then, on November 7, to the cabinet. In the cabinet discussion, Lieberman said again that the threat was less urgent than portrayed by the army and that the most necessary move at this time was a ground incursion against Hamas in Gaza.

During the interlude, in October, Eisenkot traveled to the United States and presented the tunnel threat to the American administration for the first time. Netanyahu also discussed it early in the week at his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels. The prime minister had many topics to discuss with Pompeo. The operation to locate the tunnels was first on the list.

Israel now has disclosed that it has uncovered a third attack tunnel built by Hezbollah from Lebanon across the border into Israel. The discovery was unveiled on Saturday, December 8, 2018, but the tunnel likely was discovered long ago and work to expose it began days ago.

Haaretz reports:

The Israeli army said on Saturday evening that it has identified another Hezbollah attack tunnel crossing into Israeli territory.

According to the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesperson Ronen Manelis, soldiers discovered upon entering the tunnel that it had been dug up until the past several days. “The tunnel is booby-trapped right now in a manner that would endanger the life of anyone attempting to enter it from the Lebanese side,” Manelis said.

The IDF spokesman also explained that the Israeli military is refraining from publishing the exact location of the tunnel so that it could learn more about its terrain. Manelis noted in a statement that the tunnel is situated in an area afflicted by difficult weather conditions, which have plagued Israel in recent days.

Manelis said in his statement that the tunnel was not prepared for military operations, “did not pose a danger and does not pose one now.”

This IDF video with Hebrew subtitles shows the anti-tunnel operations, believed to be the second of the tunnels exposed, and IDF soldiers placing explosives into a tunnel.

The Times of Israel further reports:

This fresh tunnel, whose location has been kept secret for security reasons, has been fitted with explosives in order to ensure that it cannot be used by the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

According to the spokesman, excavation of the tunnel was being conducted until recently.

“It’s a fresh tunnel,” he said….

Saturday saw heavy rain and dense fog throughout Israel, turning the ground along the border where soldiers are operating to a thick mud. According to IDF officials, the inclement weather is making the army’s search efforts more difficult, but it is nevertheless continuing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the military for finding the new tunnel.

“Methodically and determinedly, we are destroying Hezbollah’s tunnel weapon. This action is just beginning and will require cool heads and patience. We will continue working until its end,” he said in a statement.

Hezbollah is watching this operation unfold, but had not yet taken any action to stop it. Three men believed to be Hezbollah operatives did try to approach one of the IDF teams, but fled when warning shots were fired:

The IDF fired warning shots across its tense Lebanese border to halt an attempted infiltration as it continued to publish information on a third Hezbollah attack tunnel….

On Saturday IDF troops spotted three suspicious figures attempting to approach the border area where the IDF was carrying out tunnel excavation work, Manelis told reporters.

“The troops opened fire on the suspects as per the rules of engagement,” Manlis said, explaining that the men who had taken advantage of the bad weather to steal IDF equipment, fled the area.

The IDF believes the three people could belong to Hezbollah but according to Lebanon’s National News Agency IDF troops opened fire on a Lebanese army patrol “because of heavy fog in the area.”

It may not take much to spark a wider conflict. If Hezbollah attacks the operation, or if Israel crosses the border, fighting could flare and then Israel would go after the ultimate target, Hezbollah’s Iranian-supplied missiles and missile factories.

 
 
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