Israel to expose Hezbollah attack tunnels from Lebanon

Israeli vehicles are seen from the village of Kfar Kila

Israel's military said on Tuesday it was beginning an operation to "expose and thwart" cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon dug by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

In September, the IDF unveiled eleven kilometers of what is planned to be a 130 kilometer defensive wall stretching the length of the Lebanon-Israel frontier, equipped with cameras in the hope of thwarting any attempt by its enemy Hezbollah to infiltrate and attack.

The tunnels are not operational, the military said, adding that its work to find and neutralize them was taking place inside Israeli territory.

The operation in the Meluta area will target an unspecified number of tunnels that were not ready to be used, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the IDF, according to The Jerusalem Post.

"We see the Hezbollah activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli authority", said Conricus.

In 2012, Israel became aware of Hezbollah's "plan to conquer the Galilee", as it was termed by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The IDF said that "Operation Northern Shield" was initiated under a special task force that has since 2014 been leading operational, technological and intelligence efforts on the issue of tunnels on the northern border and has "developed vast abilities and knowledge on Hezbollah's attack tunnel project".

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Israel has warned that another war with the group is likely and has said it will use massive military force in any new fight.

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 on Tuesday.

IDF officials estimated the operation would last for a few weeks, but a response from Hezbollah could prolong it further.

There have been outbreaks of violence between Israel and Hezbollah across the Israel-Lebanon border, which is heavily fortified.

The Israeli operation comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a last- minute trip to Brussels to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.

Israel has said it will not allow Hezbollah to obtain advanced missiles, and frequently carries out air strikes on arms being transferred to the group through Syria. Israel has also reportedly carried out killings against Hezbollah figures.

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