Sunday, 16 June, 2019

Israel says it has completed hunt for Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon

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Pablo Mccormick | 14 January, 2019, 08:42

On Christmas Day the Israeli jets used two civilian aircraft in flight as cover to engage targets in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, noting that the IDF's F-16s flew in as civilian jets were landing at Beirut and Damascus airports.

Speaking Sunday at an Israeli Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: "Just in the last 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons in the Damascus global airport".

"We have been taking action with impressive success to arrest Iran's military entrenchment in Syria", Netanyahu told his cabinet in televised remarks, saying this entailed "hundreds" of attacks over the past several years of Syria's civil war, in which Iranian and Hezbollah forces have backed the Damascus government against rebels and Islamist insurgents.

However, Israel's outgoing military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot revealed in a recent New York Times interview that Israel had "struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit". "During this time we worked together against varied threats in order to build up Israel's security", Netanyahu said.

It reached a few dozen metres into Israel, and at 55 metres underground was the deepest as well as "the longest and most detailed" of all the tunnels the army exposed, Conricus said.

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Netanyahu, visiting the northern border later on Sunday, put the number at "between 1,000 and 2,000" Hezbollah fighters.

"According to our intelligence and our assessment of the situation there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon into Israel".

It is believed the tunnels were allowing militants to sneak across the border and carry out attacks.

The tunnel would be destroyed in the coming days, Conricus said, adding that while more tunnels still existed on the Lebanese side of the border, this effectively marked the end of the ambitious military operation.

Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006. Israel reported the tunnel's discovery to UNIFIL, the United Nations observer force responsible for ensuring that southern Lebanon remains free of hostile forces.

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The powerful Shiite Hezbollah group, which acts independently in Lebanon, has yet to comment on the tunnels.

In the wake of the tunnel discoveries, Israel has asked the worldwide community to impose tough sanctions on Hezbollah and launch action against its state-within-a-state operation in Lebanon.

Israel has long called for a crackdown on the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a heavily armed mini-army that is believed to possess an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach almost all of Israel.

Israel has pledged to prevent its enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where it is backing President Bashar Assad's regime alongside Russian Federation and Hezbollah.

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