On December 3, 2018, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to destroy tunnels constructed by Hezbollah that extended across the Lebanese border into Israel. The IDF announced the discovery of the tunnels on December 4. The military said it has been aware since 2006 that Hezbollah was trying to construct attack tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel at several points along the border.
According to Haaretz, “In 2013, the military discovered that Hezbollah was attempting to begin construction of the tunnels but could not locate any. In 2014, the military formed a special team to locate these tunnels, and in 2015 it began building a barrier along the Lebanese border. During this time, the military developed tunnel-locating technology.”
Hezbollah’s objective, according to Shimon Shapira is to fight the next war within Israeli territory. Hezbollah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, wanted to invade the northern Galilee region and conquer it. Shapira said the aim was to “have topographical superiority in comparison to Israel’s inferior topographical positions near the border.”
Shapira explained that Hezbollah planned to move hundreds of fighters through the tunnels. The group created special forces, the “Radwan Forces,” to train for an eventual operation to seize control of isolated Israeli communities along the northern border.
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said details about the number of tunnels was classified. He said it was a “small number.” He added that the tunnels did not constitute an immediate threat and they were still unfinished.
One 600 foot tunnel extends from under a home near a UNIFIL post in southern Lebanon into Israel near the city of Metulla where Radwan units intended to infiltrate and cutoff the city. The military said it took about two years to build the tunnel, which was found roughly 80 feet underground and was 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It extended 130 feet into Israeli territory.
The construction of the tunnels is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. “The fact that Hezbollah has tunnels crossing the border into Israeli territory is proof of a flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty,” Manelis said. “We see this as a very serious situation that hurts Lebanon and the citizens of Lebanon, and we hold the Lebanese government accountable. We have indisputable proof that the Lebanese government is not in control of their border. Iranian money is behind these tunnels.”
Sources: Yaniv Kubovich, Noa Shpigel and Noa Landau, “Israel Launches Operation to Destroy Hezbollah Cross-border Tunnels From Lebanon,” Haaretz, (December 4, 2018);
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, “Hizbullah’s Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels,” JCPA, (December 4, 2018);
Anna Ahronheim, “Hezbollah Tunnel Was To Be Used To Cut Off Metulla: Senior Idf Officer,” Jerusalem Post, (December 5, 2018).