JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israel Defense Forces launched an overnight military operation along the northern border with Lebanon to destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels.
It's called Operation Northern Shield.
"That operation is aimed to expose and to destroy cross-border attack tunnels the terrorist organization Hezbollah has been digging from within civilian houses in Lebanon into Israel, violating Israeli sovereignty as well as UN resolution 1701," IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
Conricus said Hezbollah has been hiding its efforts within the civilian infrastructure.
"We, the IDF, have been on their tails. For the last four years, we have been monitoring their activity, following what they have been doing quite closely," he said.
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nahshon said Hezbollah is under the direction of Iran.
"Hezbollah is a dangerous terror organization acting out of Lebanon under the orders of Tehran, and its purpose is to inflict damage to Israel and to Israeli citizens. And by acting the way we do, we protect our population. …It is an act of aggression and we will do all the necessary in order to protect Israel and the Israeli citizens," Nahshon said.
Within a few hours of the original announcement, the IDF said it had located a tunnel in Kfar Kela near Metulla, which sits right on the Lebanese border. The tunnel is said to be 200 meters (656 feet) in length, with 40 meters (131 feet) inside Israel.
It is 25 meters (82 feet) underground and two meters (6 ½ feet) tall and two meters (6 ½ feet) wide. That’s larger than Hamas tunnels and means they can move more goods and troops through them.
Over the past few years, the IDF has been implementing what it called a "unique defensive plan,” which it named "Defensive Obstacle Project."
Earlier, CBN News was invited to cover the construction of that project, which included building a defensive wall, creating cliffs and clearing vegetation.
The current operation was likely part of the discussions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday evening in Brussels.
Before his departure, Netanyahu hinted at the Israel operation.
"We are in continuous contact with our American friends. I will discuss with Mike Pompeo a series of regional developments, as well as the steps we are taking together to block the aggression of Iran and its proxies in the north," Netanyahu told reporters before boarding.
In a telephone briefing with The Israel Project (TIP), reserve Col. Atai Shelach, former commander of the Yahalom unit in charge of dismantling tunnels, said it was just a matter of time before Israel would launch such an operation. He compared Hamas tunnels with those of Hezbollah.
"I said this many times. Hamas, if we are comparing it to Hezbollah, is like a kindergarten, while Hezbollah is the university of the tunnels," he explained. "Hamas uses the tunnels for tactical operations. Hezbollah uses the tunnels for strategic operations, and it’s a big difference."
The IDF made it clear that the operation is entirely inside Israel. Nevertheless, it could inflame tensions along the border. Israel is on high alert for any possible Hezbollah reaction.