The IDF announced the discovery of a third terror tunnel built by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel, and fired shots at suspected infiltrators, The Jerusalem Post reported Saturday.
On Tuesday of last week, Israel announced the start of Operation Northern Shield, an effort to locate the many tunnels Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group, had built that extend into Israel from Lebanon. Israeli authorities suspect that the purpose of the tunnels was to allow Hezbollah to send in troops to capture Israeli territory and start a war.
The discovery of the second tunnel was announced on Thursday, starting in the southern Lebanese village of Ramyeh.
After the announcement of the third tunnel on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The IDF and the security establishment are continuing to operate in the north with great success. They are systematically and decisively eliminating Hezbollah’s tunnels weapon.”
The prime minister also made clear that the operation to identify and destroy all of the tunnels is likely to take a long time. “This operation is just beginning; equanimity and patience are required. We will continue to work until it is completed; this is what we will do,” Netanyahu said.
While the IDF said that Hezbollah had been working on the tunnel just prior to its discovery, it posed no immediate threat to the communities in northern Israel.
“Whoever enters the tunnel from the Lebanese side risks his life,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis warned.
On Saturday, the IDF also detected three figures approaching the area where it was excavating a tunnel. Manelis said, “The troops opened fire on the suspects as per the rules of engagement.” He explained that the men had used the cover of bad weather to attempt stealing IDF equipment.
The IDF believes that the suspects belonged to Hezbollah, but a Lebanese report alleged that Israel had opened fire on a Lebanese army patrol that had ended up in the area due to “heavy fog in the area.”
While Israel has expressed its intent to operate only on its side of the border, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz indicated that Israel could consider operating inside of Lebanon to destroy the tunnels.
“If we think that in order to thwart the tunnels that one needs to operate on the other side – then we will operate on the other side of the border,” Katz told Radio Tel Aviv on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel has also warned Lebanon that it would have to strike Hezbollah targets in the country, if the terror group did not stop manufacturing precision-guided missiles.
According to the Journal, Israel’s military leaders are concerned that advanced missiles made with Iran’s help “could erode Israel’s technological military advantage in the region and complicate efforts to defend its northern border and cities.”
One senior Israeli military official told the Journal “We haven’t got any intention or will to get into a confrontation with Lebanon. Our problem is Hezbollah.”
However, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence said, “Israel is facing a very important strategic dilemma, how dangerous is the Iranian precision project and other advanced weapons they are sending to Hezbollah?”
Hezbollah has an arsenal consisting of an estimated 130,000 missiles, but most don’t have sophisticated guidance systems. On Thursday, Netanyahu praised Israeli intelligence and defense agencies for ensuring that Hezbollah had not been able to create more than “a few dozen” advanced missiles.
[Photo: ILTV ISRAEL DAILY / YouTube ]