Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanon border

Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanon border

Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanon border

The Israeli army posted a video showing Hezbollah operatives inside a discovered hidden tunnel discovered on Tuesday south of Kfar Kela near Israel's northernmost town, Metula, where militants were shot at by a robot.

Operation Northern Shield is the culmination of a four-year intelligence effort to locate tunnels under Israel's northern border, which according to a military spokesman are "part of a Hezbollah surprise plan to infiltrate its fighters into Israel to attack civilian villages, army positions, snatch soldiers and civilian hostages and hold terrain, before exfiltrating back to Lebanon".

The operation was launched before dawn on Tuesday, with the army declaring some areas adjacent to the Lebanon border a closed military zone and deploying additional forces to the north.

Suggesting the military operation had been long-planned, the newspaper also said military censors had recently imposed "heavy restrictions" that limited its ability to report on the IDF's plan to destroy the tunnels.

A Lebanese military official told The Associated Press that Lebanese troops and military intelligence agents, along with United Nations peacekeepers deployed in southern Lebanon, were observing the border.

He claimed that Hezbollah has been developing an offensive plan that would "shift the battleground into Israel". He did not explain why the operation to uncover the tunnels started now.

US backup: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a short visit to Brussels on Monday.

The tunnel stretched some 200 metres (660 feet), at a depth of around 25 metres, Conricus said.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, had no further details.

It said the army had "enhanced its presence and readiness" and was prepared for "various scenarios". "The command pointed out that the army was ready for any emergency situations", the statement noted.

The Lebanese Armed Forces went on high alert in southern Lebanon after the announcement, a security official told al-Nahar.

Netanyahu has pledged to stop arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and to keep it from transferring advanced weapons to its ally Hizbullah in Lebanon.

There has been increased attention in Israel in recent days over Israeli officials' concerns regarding Iranian activity in Lebanon.

Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah are major players in the war in Syria and their influence has alarmed Israel, which has repeatedly launched attacks on what it describes as Iranian and Iran-backed targets in the country.

Neither side appears interested in another full-fledged confrontation like the 2006 war, but any skirmish could spark an all-out conflict.

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