hezbollah tunnel
© IDF Spokesperson's Unit
A Hezbollah attack tunnel reaching from Lebanon into Israel destroyed by the IDF, December 4th, 2018
The IDF on Tuesday uncovered the first cross-border Hezbollah tunnel from a home in the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila some 40 meters into Israeli territory outside the town of Metulla, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced in a statement Tuesday.

It was the first tunnel that the IDF said it had discovered as part of Operation Northern Shield, which was launched to expose and destroy offensive cross-border tunnels built by the Lebanese Shi'ite terror group, a proxy of Iran, along the Lebanon border and into northern Israel.

Comment: Hezbollah is not a 'terror group', despite what Israel and the United States say. It is a political group comprising a large part of the Lebanese population, which has a militant wing tasked with defending Lebanon against Israeli aggression - something it's very good at, which is why Israel hates it so much. Hezbollah actually fights terrorism - unlike Israel.

According to the military, it took Hezbollah some two years to build the 600-foot-long tunnel, which had been dug through solid rock into Israel and built some 80 feet underground and was six feet wide and six feet tall, and had electrical and communication lines as well as ventilation.

"The digging of the cross-border attack tunnels that the IDF has discovered, before the attack tunnels became operational and posed an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians, constitutes a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty," said IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis.

Comment: You don't get to complain about your enemies violating your sovereignty when you constantly violate their own sovereignty. At least, not unless you're Israel - the most exceptional nation.

The objective of the operation is to neutralize all Hezbollah attack tunnels which have crossed into Israeli territory. The operation will take place all along the "Blue Line," the name for the international border between Israel and Lebanon and for the time being will be strictly within Israeli territory.

Nevertheless, other tunnels may be destroyed within Lebanon.

"We are prepared for all options, and the operation is only in its first day. The neutralizing of the tunnels will not necessarily take place within our territory," Manelis said.

Operation Northern Shield will be led by the OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick and will include troops from the Combat Engineering Corps, the Intelligence Branch, as well as the Defense Ministry's Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT) will take part.

"For a number of years, the IDF General Staff has been leading this effort, which recently reached the necessary operational conditions," read a statement released by the army.

The military stated that a number of areas close to the security fence with Lebanon, including in the community of Metulla, have been declared a closed military zone and that it has beefed up troop numbers in the Northern Command ahead of all possible scenarios. No reservists have been called up.

While the IDF stressed that it is prepared for any escalation with Hezbollah that could stem from the operation, there are no special instructions for the residents of the North. The IDF updated the heads of local authorities overnight and will continue to be in contact with them throughout the operation.

"We are in full control of the situation and are determined to remove the underground Hezbollah threat from the northern border. The tunnels do cross into Israeli territory, but the work on them was not complete," the spokesman said on a call with reporters.

According to Manelis, the Lebanese government is responsible for all that occurs on Lebanese soil and the digging of the tunnels shows that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is not capable of controlling what occurs in southern Lebanon.

"This is also more proof of the grave violations by Hezbollah, which blatantly ignores UN resolutions, especially Resolution 1701, and operates from villages in southern Lebanon, while harming the state of Lebanon and its citizens," Manelis said, adding that "The Hezbollah terrorist organization, which is behind the digging of the tunnels, continues to operate with the support and funding of Iran in order to carry out terror activity against Israeli citizens."

Last week, Hezbollah released a video filled with satellite images and precise locations of strategic sites in Israel warning "attack and you will regret it."

While Israeli defense officials repeatedly denied the existence of cross-border Hezbollah tunnels despite residents of northern Israel warning of weird digging sounds, the military admitted on Tuesday that it had been aware of Hezbollah efforts to build attack tunnels stretching into Israel at several points along the border after the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

In 2015, the Lebanese daily As-safir published a series of reports about Hezbollah's preparation for war against Israel which included a sprawling underground network of highly-advanced tunnels housing thousands of rockets ready to be launched.

According to the report the tunnels, which have secondary escape shafts, are built with durable concrete and have a 24-hour power supply via underground generators as well as a ventilation system to protect military equipment.

Ruslan Hassan of Metulla told The Jerusalem Post that he noticed an increase in IDF troops and engineering equipment late Monday night but thought that it was another military drill until he received a message in the morning that a tunnel had been found outside the community.

"I was outside with my friends drinking tea around midnight, and all of a sudden we saw a lot of troops," Hassan said. "We thought nothing of it until this morning... there's never really been anything here. It was a surprise, but we always knew that there were tunnels."

Hassan, who was walking his dog Bruno when approached by the Post, said that a friend of his has complained several times of hearing sounds of digging under his home.

"At night he would hear things, he would hear sounds," he said. "But so would we, but you don't really think anything of it, because nothing has ever happened so why would something happen. But we have an amazing army and I'm sure that if there are other tunnels the IDF will find them and take care of them."

Racheli, another resident of Metulla, told the Post that the community is not surprised that a Hezbollah tunnel had been found a kilometer or so from civilian homes.

"We are living with problems due to security many many years," she said. "We aren't really surprised that this happened, we knew for many years that this was their intention, to infiltrate into this community. It's easy for them... we are surrounded by Lebanon, on almost every side, and that part of Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah."

Racheli, whose husband last week was working in the fields where the tunnel was found, said that while she had not personally heard any strange digging sounds over the years, she told the Post that she believes those who have complained of such sounds.

"Just last week my husband was working in the fields and didn't see or hear anything suspicious and look, today the army announced that a tunnel was right there," she said.

Hezbollah's elite Radwan unit in the next war is expected to attempt to capture an Israeli community or military outpost and as part of preparations for this threat, Israel has invested significant amounts of money and effort into strengthening its defenses along the border with Lebanon in recent years.

In order to prevent any such ground attack by the group, Israel has created obstacles such as artificial cliffs and is currently building high concrete barriers all along the Lebanese border in the areas of the Sulam Ridge, Metulla and Misgav Am to the south and east of the Blue Line.

The barrier is expected to be completed in the coming months.

The IDF has carried out several large-scale drills simulating war with the Lebanese terror group in the past year and according to the military Israel's intelligence capabilities has increased dramatically since the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and has five times the number of targets in the north if another war were to break out.