Israel calls for global response to Hezbollah tunnels

Author and Middle East Expert Caroline Glick

The U.N. mission, known as UNIFIL, said its regular weekly meeting with the Lebanese and Israeli armies discussed Israel's "activities" searching for suspected tunnels. He called Hezbollah's tunnels, "part of Iran's aggression in the region".

Israeli soldiers gather by an army vehicle at the Lebanon-Israel border wall near the site of an Israeli excavation site for reported cross-border Hezbollah-dug tunnels, December 5, 2018.

Foreign Minister Khalida Khalifa tweeted, "Is it not for the terrorist Hezbollah to dig tunnels across Lebanon's borders a clear threat to Lebanon's stability and its governing partner?"

The IDF says it has been tracking Hezbollah's attack tunnels since 2014 and expects to find and destroy several more in a campaign that will last weeks to months. "Anyone who is close to the tunnels is putting his or her life in danger".

"The Israelis did not present any information" at the meeting with the Lebanese army and UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] peacekeeping force, a statement from Berri's office said.

The same day as the phone messages, IDF Arabic spokesperson on Twitter wrote a warning to Kfar Kila residents to leave the area, claiming they were living in a "ticking time bomb".

Israel has been building a wall along its border with Lebanon to prevent such an attack.

Following the announcement earlier this week of the launch of "Operation Northern Shield", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited on Thursday the Lebanon border area, where the IDF is working to destroy tunnels built by Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The Israeli military conducted operations to destroy the tunnels earlier this week, shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a one-on-one meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels. Gen. Yoel Strik, showed the head of the U.N.'s peacekeeping force in Lebanon a tunnel that entered Israel.

Netanyahu addressed the work of UNIFIL to the ambassador's on Thursday, calling on the force to expand its role on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

He confidently asserted that when Israel is done with the tunnels, they "will no longer exist and will no longer be effective".

"If Hezbollah knew that we knew [about the existence of the tunnels] then this would accelerate their kidnapping efforts, and we did not want to get to a situation where the kidnappers infiltrate into Israel and abduct a soldier or a civilian, and no one would know anything about it", the senior official said.

"UNIFIL should expand its role, because evidently it's not been done".

"And you know there were 15,000 rockets and missiles at the end of the Second Lebanon War".

"We were debating when to uncover the tunnel", explained the senior officer. "There's about ten times that and we haven't seen a single case, a single filing of a complaint or report by UNIFIL", he added. My goal was first of all to dismantle these terror tunnels without getting into broad escalation.

"Whoever attacks us is taking his life into his hands", he added.

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