Israel says it has completed hunt for Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon

A file photo taken on Dec 21, 2018, from the South Lebanese village of Ramyeh shows an Israeli military outpost across the border. After previously reporting the discovery of five Hezbollah tunnels, the Israeli military said another had been found on
A file photo taken on Dec 21, 2018, from the South Lebanese village of Ramyeh shows an Israeli military outpost across the border. After previously reporting the discovery of five Hezbollah tunnels, the Israeli military said another had been found on Jan 12, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Israel said on Sunday (Jan 13) that it had completed a search for Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon after uncovering at least six of the passages dug secretly under the border by the Iranian-backed guerrillas.

The operation, made public by Israel in early December last year, had stirred fears on both sides of a flare-up. Israel, coordinating with United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon, said it sought no escalation.

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a war in 2006. While they have at times traded blows within Syria - where Hezbollah has been helping Damascus beat back rebels - the Israel-Lebanon border has mostly been quiet.

After previously reporting the discovery of five tunnels, the Israeli military said another had been found on Saturday, 55m deep and reaching "a few tens of metres" into Israel from a point 800m within Lebanon.

"All of the tunnels have been exposed and have either already been destroyed or are going to be destroyed," military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

"According to our assessments, there are no longer any tunnels crossing into Israel," he said, adding that Hezbollah retained some underground facilities on the Lebanese side.

Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels, the existence of several of which has been confirmed by peacekeepers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.

Citing intelligence assessments, Israel says the tunnels were prepared in secret, over a period of years, as part of a Hezbollah plan to send as many as 1,500 fighters in a shock assault on its northern communities and military bases during any future war.