Hezbollah likely attempting to close off its attack tunnels

By Judah Ari Gross for TimesOfIsrael.com, December 18, 2018 –

Military releases footage of one of the border-crossing passages it uncovered in recent weeks, which peacekeepers say violate UN resolution. SEE TimesOfIsrael.com FOR VIDEO.

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, left, meets with Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, commander of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, at the IDF’s Tel Aviv headquarters on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army on Tuesday said the Hezbollah terror group appeared to be trying to seal some of the attack tunnels it dug into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, after several were uncovered by the military.

The Israel Defense Forces released video footage of one of the four tunnels it has so far exposed as part of its operation to find and destroy them.

“An attempt to seal off the passage can be seen, which we understand was carried out by operatives of the Hezbollah terror group in recent days,” the army said in a statement.

An IDF spokesperson said the attempt to seal was made after the tunnel had been found and boobytrapped by the military.

Citing national security concerns, he refused to comment on how Hezbollah had tried to seal off the tunnel or why this effort had not set off the explosives placed inside the tunnel by the IDF.

The army said the tunnel seen in the footage was constructed in a different way than others, wider and with concrete lined walls. Security officials told the Walla news site this was likely to allow Hezbollah to send operatives on motorbikes and other larger weapons through the passage.

The footage was apparently filmed with a small robot, sent into the tunnel by combat engineers.

The IDF refused to specify which tunnel was seen in the footage. The military has uncovered four of these passages since launching Operation Northern Shield on December 4.

The interior of what Israel says is an attack tunnel dug by the Hezbollah terror group that crossed into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, from footage released by the military on December 18, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army said the four tunnels did not present an immediate threat to nearby Israeli communities as they lacked an exit point. The tunnels are under constant surveillance and explosives have been placed inside all of them to ensure they cannot be used while the IDF studies them and prepares them for demolition.

The first and second tunnels were found outside the town of Metulla, near the Lebanese border. The military has refused to reveal the locations of the subsequent tunnels it found, and censored much of the information surrounding the operation, citing national security.

The operation has raised prospects of a possible fresh conflict on the volatile border, though Lebanon has downplayed chances of war so long as Israeli troops do not cross into its territory. UN peacekeepers, meanwhile, have stepped up their patrols to ensure that the frontier remains calm and to mediate any disagreements that arise over the exact location of the border, as they did Monday morning.

On Monday, the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL confirmed the existence of four tunnels within Israeli territory and further confirmed that two of them indeed originate in Lebanon.

“These constitute violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” UNIFIL said in a statement.

UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, called for all armed groups in Lebanon besides the country’s military to remain north of the Litani River.

It was the first such pronouncement about the tunnels from the peacekeeping group, formally known as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to discuss the tunnels and the IDF operation to find them on Wednesday.

Click here for the remainder of this extensive report on TimesOfIsrael.com.

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