SUN 17 - 2 - 2019
Date: Dec 4, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Israel launches operation to cut off Hezbollah infiltration tunnels
BEIRUT/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Excavations are underway to block tunnels that the Israeli army Tuesday claimed Hezbollah had dug to infiltrate the country from Lebanon, local media reported.

Local news channel Al-Jadeed said the Israeli army had tanks and construction vehicles near the border around midnight Monday. The force started digging near the Israeli border town of Metula, Al-Jadeed reported.

Local station LBCI displayed footage of an excavator working along the borderline as the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon patrolled the Lebanese side.

In a statement Tuesday carried by the state-run National News Agency, a UNIFIL official said the situation in the area is calm, noting that the organization is coordinating with authorities from both countries.

Earlier in the day, Israeli army spokesman for international media Jonathan Conricus had said that "attack tunnels" had been detected but that they were not yet operational. However, he declined to say how many were detected or how they would be cut off.

All operations to block them would take place within Israeli territory, Conricus said, though such operations would be likely to heighten tensions with Hezbollah.

"We have launched Operation Northern Shield to expose and thwart cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah," Conricus told journalists.

Israeli army spokesperson for Arabic media Avichay Adraee also said in a tweet that Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army should not attempt any attack through the tunnels.

The army "warns Hezbollah and Lebanese Army personnel and advises them to stay away from any attack [through the tunnels] dug from the Lebanese to the Israeli lands. Your life is in danger,” Adraee said.

The announcement of the operation comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels Monday night.

Netanyahu said he had planned to discuss with Pompeo the "steps we are taking together to block the aggression of Iran and its proxies in the north," referring to Syria and Lebanon.

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