JERUSALEM Israel has launched what it calls “an operation to expose and neutralise” tunnels between Lebanon and Israel allegedly dug by armed group Hezbollah.
The operation was announced by the Israeli military on Twitter on Tuesday.
Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told Reuters news agency that the operation would only take place on Israel’s side of the border and that it would not extend into Lebanon.
“We see the Hezbollah activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli authority,” he told Reuters.
In a tweet, Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the Lebanese government is responsible for the build-up of the tunnels, saying they are endangering Lebanese citizens.
Hezbollah has not responded to the military operation yet.
However, Lebanese online news portal Tayyar reported that the Israeli army was excavating areas opposite the Lebanese villages of Kfarkela and Adaisseh on the soutern border.
According to Al Jazeera correspondent Natasha Ghoneim, the operation by Israel is a rare occurence.
“Israeli military spokespeople are saying they have discovered tunnels made by Hezbollah and that they are attempting to thwart any attack from Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel,” Ghoneim said from West Jerusalem.
“Since Hezbollah had its war with Israel in 2006, we haven’t seen this kind of operation in the north as there has been a tense detente between Hezbollah and Israel,” she added.
Last night, the prime minister travelled to Brussels unexpectedly to talk to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, briefing him on the operation that started Tuesday morning.
“The timing is important as well, because three days ago Israeli police have recommended that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges of corruption that have been plaguing him,” Ghoneim said.
She added that although Netanyahu has remained popular, those that are sceptical of this operation say this could be a an effort by Netanyahu to divert attention away from those legal problems.
In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought out a war in the border region in which more than 1,100 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 159 Israelis, were killed.
During that war, the armed Shia group was able to overwhelm Israel’s ground invasion of southern Lebanon and strike military and civilian targets, undermining internal Israeli support for the war and spurring regional support for Hezbollah’s military successes against a state army.
Since then, Hezbollah has become one of the main supporting actors in the war in Syria and tensions with Israel have remained high.
Over the course of that war, Israel has targeted alleged Syrian and Hezbollah arms convoys on multiple occasions in an attempt to block any Iranian efforts to transfer weapons to the group.
Since the start of Syrian war, more than 200 strikes were carried out by Israel according to its military.
Israel has accused Iran of supporting Hezbollah with money and arms to continue fighting in Syria and retain its power in Lebanon.
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