Destruction of Lebanon tunnels nearly done

An Israeli soldier operating a pulley on Dec 19 at an entry point to a tunnel which reportedly connects Lebanon and Israel.
An Israeli soldier operating a pulley on Dec 19 at an entry point to a tunnel which reportedly connects Lebanon and Israel.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JERUSALEM • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli army's operation to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hizbollah from Lebanon was near completion.

The Israeli Premier's remarks, made during a tour to the northern frontier with his security Cabinet, come a day after the government decided to hold early elections in April.

"The IDF (Israeli army) briefed us on its actions in neutralising the tunnels," Mr Netanyahu said. "This operation is nearly done."

"There has been exceptional work here to deny Hizbollah the tunnels weapon," he said in remarks relayed by his office.

"It has invested greatly in this and we have destroyed it."

Last Friday, the army said it had blown up one cross-border tunnel dug by Hizbollah from Lebanon, the first of four it has uncovered - and pledged to destroy - in recent weeks.

On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said that forces sealed another "terror tunnel" with cement.

A spokesman for the army would not provide Agence France-Presse with details on the status of the other two tunnels known to the Israeli forces.

In launching an operation to cut off the tunnels on Dec 4, Israel's military said it located four underground passageways infiltrating Israeli territory.

Israel alleges that Hizbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill its civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities, while noting they were not yet operational.

A month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Last week, the UN confirmed the existence of the four tunnels and said at least two of them crossed into Israel but that none of them appeared to have exit points on the Israeli side.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or Unifil, has called the two tunnels "a serious violation of Resolution 1701", which ended the 2006 war.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'Destruction of Lebanon tunnels nearly done'. Print Edition | Subscribe