Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels

Israeli soldiers guard near the border with Lebanon in the town of Metulla northern Israel

Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels'

The IDF launched Operation Northern Shield on Tuesday morning to expose and neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israel military spokesman, said they were aware of a number of tunnels crossing into Israel from Lebanon to the north, and that the army would only be operating within Israel and not crossing the border.

"We see Hizbollah's activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty and it again proves Hizbollah's complete disregard for United Nations resolutions", said Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman.

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Israeli security chiefs were holding security assessments throughout the day in order to predict Iran-backed Hezbollah's reaction to the IDF operation.

"In 2012, we identified the "Conquering the Galilee" plan (Hezbollah leader) Nasrallah has been talking about, and it includes a surprising component of offensive tunnels".

It said it was neutralising the tunnels before they became operational and a threat to civilian communities.

The tunnels are concentrated in the area around Metula, a small Israeli town of around 1,000 people nestled against the border with Lebanon. No special instructions were issued for Israeli civilians in the area. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. An Israeli government source said the meeting was to update Pompeo of the upcoming tunnel operation.

It was not immediately clear why the army launched the operation now, but it came as tensions on Israel's northern border have ramped up in recent days and hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Brussels for a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss Iran and security challenges on Israel's northern border, likely referring to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, which possesses one of the most powerful militias in the region, has threatened to attack Israel with its vast rocket arsenal if war breaks out.

Israeli officials have long warned the threat posed by Gaza's Hamas rulers pales in comparison to that of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah - a heavily-armed mini-army with valuable combat experience and an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach almost every part of Israel.

Israel and Lebanon have been involved in a series of conflicts over the years and the two remain technically at war.

Hezbollah meanwhile has also been distracted by the war in Syria, where it has fought fiercely alongside President Bashar Assad's troops.

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