The Israel Defense Forces has uncovered at 4th attack tunnel built by Hezbollah across the Lebanese border into Israel.

Israel is using the discovery and demolition of the tunnels to put political and diplomatic pressure on Hezbollah and Iran. International diplomats and political visitors are taken to the area where Israel is digging.

The discovery of the tunnels reveals the ineptitude of the U.S. peacekeeping force in Southern Lebanon, under whose noses the tunnels were built in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701

It’s not that such pressure will change the long-term behavior of Hezbollah and Iran, who still are dedicated to destroying Israel. Rather, it may serve as a short-term deterrent because of the widespread international condemnation of the tunnels.

Also, it is part of Israel preparing the international landscape for a possible escalation in which Israel, of necessity will have to attack the civilian areas where Hezbollah hides its missiles, weapons, and military infrastructure (including tunnel systems that do not cross the border).

The IDF released this video recently to emphasize that point:

Ynet News has an extensive and must-read report on how the anti-tunnel operation came into being, Destroying Hezbollah’s tunnels: an operation years in the making.

We have been covering the steady rollout of tunnel discoveries in the following posts:

The first three tunnels uncovered were strategically placed for an invasion of the northern Israel panhandle:

All three cross-border tunnels identified thus far are located in the Galilee Panhandle. The tunnels sit in key tactical positions on the borderline. A topographic study of the area shows that the tunnels run through the Lebanese mountain valleys that can be used to cut the Panhandle off along the Hula and the Upper Jordan river valleys near the Golan plateau.

The Jerusalem Post reports on the 4th tunnel discovery:

The IDF announced on Monday the discovery of a fourth cross-border Hezbollah attack tunnel which infiltrated into northern Israel from Lebanon.

In a statement, the army said that the tunnel, which was found over the weekend, “is under IDF control and does not pose an imminent threat.”

While the military did not disclose the location, the statement said that the heads of relevant local authorities were notified and updated on the discovery.

Like the previously discovered tunnels, it was filled with explosives ahead of its neutralization in order to prevent any possible use of it by Hezbollah militants.

“Anyone who enters it from the Lebanese side endangers their life,” the army said.

“The Lebanese government is responsible for the digging of the tunnels from Lebanese territory. This is a serious violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

The IDF Twitter account tweeted that it had found a 4th tunnel (it’s not clear if this video is of the 4th tunnel, or one of the earlier tunnels).

(video also here)

Israel presumably has known the locations of these four tunnels, and probably many more, for months or years. What is unfolding now is part of a larger context of Iran setting up Hezbollah for use against Israel.

The Lebanon Daily Star reports of the risk of escalation:

The scene highlights the palpable anxiety that any misstep could lead to a conflagration between Israel and Lebanon that no one seems to want.

Underscoring such jitters, shadowy figures appearing across the misty hills of the border village of Mais al-Jabal last weekend sparked panic, and Israeli soldiers fired in the air to warn a Lebanese military intelligence patrol, according to Lebanese reports. Israel said it fired at Hezbollah members who came to the site to dismantle sensors installed to detect tunnels.

Israel’s tunnel search comes at a time when the civil war in neighboring Syria seems to be winding down. Hezbollah had sent hundreds of troops to Syria in 2013 to fight alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. With Assad’s forces emerging victorious, attention now seems to be returning to the tense Israel-Lebanon border….

In Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings have raised suspicions that he is also using the tunnel operation as a diplomatic pressure card.

Netanyahu has called for more sanctions against Hezbollah.

In a visit to the frontier earlier this week, he warned that if Hezbollah tries to disrupt the search for tunnels, “it will be hit in a way it cannot even imagine.”

There is a reason why Israel decided to act against the tunnels now. We just don’t know what that reason is.