Israel’s “Operation Northern Shield” to search for tunnels dug by Hezbollah on the border of Lebanon will last for weeks, a spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces announced yesterday.
“We have to be ready for any scenario to neutralise the offensive tunnels, some of which will not be on our land,” said Brigadier General Ronen Manelis. “This is a very complex and very long process as we are digging into rock. The tunnels include a ventilation system and a man can walk inside them easily.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who also holds the portfolios for the Foreign and Defence Ministries — told a press conference that the operation echoes what the IDF has done on the nominal border with the Gaza Strip. “We have neutralised numerous terror tunnels from Gaza and we will complete the work there too,” he explained. “For years, Hezbollah and Hamas have spent enormous sums in building the tunnels. We are dismantling this weapon.”
While several commentators and opposition politicians have suggested that the timing of the operation was chosen to divert public and media attention from the failed covert operation in Gaza last month and possible corruption charges against Netanyahu, this has been denied by the IDF. Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said yesterday that the Israeli cabinet approved the operation on 7 November. Manelis pointed out that the timing was decided so as to “surprise” Hezbollah.