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Israel launches the “northern shield” operation to destroy Hizbollah tunnels from Lebanon

Ruth Eglash Reporter covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories December 4th at 15:20 JERUSALEM – Israel launched an operation Tuesday…

Israel launched an operation Tuesday to destroy tunnels that Hezbollah dug under its northern boundary, announces the move with much fanfare at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces several corruption investigations as well as allegations to be soft on security.

The military said it had exposed one of the Lebanese militant group tunnels on Israeli territory in a mission called Operation Northern Shield. A spokesman, colleague Jonathan Conricus, said the tunnel began in a house in Lebanon and expanded more than 40 meters to Israel.

Netanyahu said on a television night Tuesday that the tunnels were built by Hezbollah but funded by Iran.

“They were built with a purpose in mind – to attack and kill innocent Israeli men, women and children. This is a serious violation of Israel’s sovereignty and a serious violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” he said. Lebanon states that Israel regularly violates breaking its airspace dating back to the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Netanyahu said Lebanon would be held responsible for “all terrorist activity” coming from its territory and urged the UN: Israeli security councils and countries around the world to condemn the actions of the group. Israel would defend itself against Iran’s attempt to anchored in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, he said.

Tuesday’s development is deeply concerned about the construction of Iranian proxy in Syria in recent years. In recent days, it has also become a renewed focus on Lebanon after allegations that a plan carrying Iranian weapons to Hezbollah, its most powerful proxy, had arrived at Beirut airport.

The dramatic announcement of the operation – which has so far led to a demarcation of a tunnel that seems to have been monitored by Israel for several years – triggered concern that domestic policies were at stake.

Netanyahu’s security data has taken knock in recent weeks. He faced extensive criticism, including within his coalition, to agree on a ceasefire with Hamas after the militant group running the Gaza Strip fired more than 450 rockets and mortars in Israel after an unfortunate Israeli invasion of Gaza.

He had previously agreed to allow Qatar to send money to Gaza to pay salaried employees and to ease the humanitarian crisis there.

These events led to his right of defense, Avigdor Liberman, to resign and leave his ruling coalition hanging with a thread, with a single majority in the Knesset or parliament. Protests were held in Israeli communities near Gaza.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also threatened to resign and withdraw his coalition from the coalition and overthrow the government if he did not receive the defense portfolio and said he would work to restore Israel’s military force.

Netanyahu, who did not bow and instead appointed himself as a defender, has long been dogged by allegations of corruption. On Sunday, the Israeli police recommended to accuse him of allegations of corruption and bribery in one of three criminal investigations in his behavior.

“We clearly hear some form of domestic political messages,” said Michael Horowitz, senior analyst at Middle East-based security consultant Le Beck International. “Israel has been familiar with these tunnels for years, and while the time is also meaningful regionally, it really helps Netanyahu to hit the page of the latest confrontation in Gaza that almost took the Israeli government down .”

Israel also tries to send a message to deter Hezbollah, he said, who had not responded to the news on Tuesday that Israel had discovered one of its tunnels and plans to destroy more.

On Thursday Israel warned Lebanon to stop allowing Iran to send weapons to Hezbollah after an Iranian cargo plane suspected of transporting a shipment landed in Beirut.

Hr later, Israel was accused of conducting strikes in Syria, which fired a barrier of anti-circuits rockets in response. Hezbollah then launched a campaign called “defend our skies”, and accused Israel of violating resolution 1701 by breaking Lebanon’s airspace. It threatened to rebel against any Israeli attack and released a video that showed goals in Israel with its coordinates.

Iran’s regional hegemony has also been a driving foreign affairs affair for the Trump administration. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that the United States “strongly supports” Israel’s efforts to stop tunneling to its territory. “More generally, we urge Iran and all agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation which represents an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security ” Bolton said.

Conricus said that the schedule of Operation Northern Shield was governed by “maturity of different abilities that makes us feel safe to find the tunnels.”

The Army gathered a task force to assess tunnel tunnels in area in 2014, he said, and started preparing for the current operation more than a month ago.

“Several” tunnels were monitored for “quite a long time,” says Conricus.

Although it was apparently aware of the tunnels, Israel kept the information silent.

Residents of northern Israel say that for two or three years they have heard sounds of drilling and grounding underground and warned the military. Conricus said engineering experts examined each report.

“We heard sound. We called the army. We also took pictures of Hezbollah operators on the border,” Zamir Hatan, from the northern boundary Shtula village, told Israeli radio. “The Army held a meeting with us and told us that we had nothing to worry about and that as long as they did not shoot, there was nothing to do.”

The military had previously told reporters that the rocky terrain in the area meant that it was not possible for Hezbollah to build tunnels.

Israel has used what is said, is new technology to detect and destroy tunnels built by Hamas to the south, during the fence with Gaza. They are usually destroyed before their existence is communicated to the media.

Yoav Kish, a member of Netanyahu’s party and chairman of Knesset’s domestic committee, said that the latest operation shows that what was seen as the prime minister is “doubtful and weak” in Gaza was actually “restraint” that made the move

” A tough military move against Hamas could have led to regional deterioration and confrontation in the north, “he said.

Liz Sly in Beirut contributed to this report.

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