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Operation Northern Shield

A photograph of the border, from the Lebanese side, at the start of the operation

Operation Northern Shield (Hebrew: מבצע מגן צפוני‎, translit. Mivtza Magen Tzfoni) is an ongoing Israeli military operation that was announced and started on 4 December 2018. The operation’s declared goal is to locate and destroy Hezbollah tunnels[1] that cross the Blue Line from Lebanon into northern Israel.[2][3] According to Israel, this operation is part of the ongoing Iran–Israel proxy conflict.[4]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

The Israel Defense Forces started searching for Hezbollah tunnels into Israel in 2013 after residents of northern Israel reported hearing sounds of digging, but failed to find anything. After the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, which saw numerous tunnels dug by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel being uncovered and being utilized in several attacks, the IDF renewed its search for Hezbollah tunnels in northern Israel, and this time found indications that such tunnels existed. A laboratory made up of soldiers from technology and intelligence units, was formed to investigate it, based on a similar laboratory investigating Hamas tunnels in southern Israel. A variety of seismic sensors and radar systems were used to locate the tunnels.[5]

The operation was planned two and a half years in advance. After realizing that Hezbollah's tunnels would need to be dealt with in 2015, a team of IDF military engineers, intelligence officers, and technology experts determined that plans should be made for destroying the tunnels. Preparations were made in secrecy, with many participants told they were participating in routine training. Senior officers in the IDF Combat Engineering Corps realized that the hard, rocky terrain of northern Israel, as opposed to the soft, sandy terrain of the area where Hamas tunnels were dug in the south, would pose a challenge that the IDF was not accustomed to. In 2017, it was decided to send 11 Engineering Corps personnel to Europe to learn about hard-rock excavation.[6]

EventsEdit

For the operation, the Israel Defense Forces deployed combat engineering units including the Yahalom special unit, bulldozers and other heavy equipment. The operation is done in cooperation with the Military Intelligence Directorate and the Northern Command.[7][not in citation given]

During the first day of the operation, the Israel Defense Forces say they uncovered a tunnel near the Israeli town of Metula[2] with an estimated length of 200 metres (220 yd)[2] that "extended more than 40 yards (37 m)" into Israel.[8] The Washington Post writes that this tunnel was likely monitored for several years by Israel.[8] While destroying the first tunnel, Israel placed a camera inside the tunnel and caught on video two suspected Hezbollah members inside, one of whom was identified by Israel as Dr. Imad "Azaladin" Fahs, who is reportedly known as a "commander for the Hezbollah observation unit on the border with Israel and a commander in the tunnel unit."[9] Hezbollah claimed that the man spotted in the tunnel is a drug smuggler, and is not among its ranks.[9]

On 6 December 2018, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL), confirmed the existence of the first cross-border tunnel.[10]

On 6 December, the IDF said it discovered a second tunnel originating from the village of Ramyah near the border. The IDF demanded that UNFIL reach the tunnel from the Lebanese side and said that "whoever enters the underground perimeter endangers his life".[11]

On 6 December, Israel demanded that Lebanon and UNFIL destroy the tunnels, saying that it "holds the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Armed Forces and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon responsible for all events transpiring in and emanating from Lebanon". UNFIL said that was "engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action". According to Al-Manar, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil instructed the Lebanese UN envoy to say that Israel is conducting "a diplomatic and political campaign against Lebanon in preparation for attacks against it".[12] As of 8 December 2018, Lebanon chose not to respond publicly to the Israeli demand, with Lebanese sources telling Asharq Al-Awsat that "all concerned official parties were following up on the issue and they are exerting efforts to address it away from the media or political spotlight" and that Lebanon is working on a UN complaint asserting that Israel's "diplomatic and political campaign against Lebanon that are a precursor to waging attacks against it".[13]

On 11 December 2018, Israel said it located a third tunnel crossing into Israel.[14] On the same day, UNFIL confirmed the existence of a second cross-border tunnel.[15]

Lebanese viewEdit

According to an anonymous Lebanese security source speaking to the Lebanese newspaper Al Joumhouria, the tunnels were "old and deserted," and were exploited by Israel for political ends. Their source stated that Israel had announced the discovery of the tunnels long ago, but was only now using them for political gain.[16]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Israel targets Hezbollah 'terror tunnels'". BBC News. 4 December 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Carey, Andrew; Liebermann, Oren; Wedeman, Ben; Schwartz, Michael (4 December 2018). "Israel begins operation to 'expose and thwart' Hezbollah tunnels". CNN. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  3. ^ Oster, Marcy (4 December 2018). "Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels on northern border". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  4. ^ Morris, Loveday; Eglash, Ruth (4 December 2018). "Israel announces operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels under its northern border". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 December 2018. Netanyahu said Lebanon would be held responsible for “all terror activity” emanating from its territory and urged the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world to condemn the group’s actions. Israel would defend itself against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, he said.
  5. ^ Gross, Judah Ari (10 December 2018). "IDF releases seismic audio of Hezbollah digging into Israel". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  6. ^ Kubovich, Yaniv (7 December 2018). "Israeli Soldiers Trained to Destroy Hezbollah Tunnels on European Soil". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  7. ^ Cone, Allen (4 December 2018). "Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels". United Press International. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  8. ^ a b Morris, Loveday; Eglash, Ruth (4 December 2018). "Israel announces operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels under its northern border". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  9. ^ a b Einhorn, Alon (6 December 2018). "Identity of Hezbollah member caught in tunnel footage is exposed". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  10. ^ McDowall, Angus (6 December 2018). Williams, Alison, ed. "U.N. Peacekeepers Confirm Israeli Report of Tunnel at Lebanon Border". Reuters. Retrieved 2018-12-12 – via U.S. News.
  11. ^ Kubovich, Yaniv (6 December 2018). "IDF Reveals It Found Another Hezbollah Tunnel Crossing Into Israel, Asks UN to Help Destroy It". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  12. ^ Lewis, Ori (6 December 2018). Heavens, Andrew; Lawrence, Janet, eds. "Israel tells Lebanon and U.N. peacekeepers to destroy attack tunnel". Reuters. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  13. ^ Astih, Paula (8 December 2018). "Lebanon Chooses Silence after Israeli Demand to Destroy Border Tunnels". Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  14. ^ Kubovich, Yaniv; Landau, Noa (11 December 2018). "Israel Says It Discovered Third Cross-border Hezbollah Tunnel". Haaretz. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  15. ^ Francis, Ellen (11 December 2018). Heavens, Andrew, ed. "U.N. Peacekeepers Confirm Second Tunnel at Lebanon-Israel Border". Reuters. Retrieved 2018-12-12 – via U.S. News.
  16. ^ "Report: Tunnels Found in Northern Israel are 'Old, Deserted'". Naharnet. 8 December 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2018.