Israel Launches Operation to Cut off 'Hizbullah Border Tunnels'

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Israel today launched an attack on Lebanon in a bid to destroy what it claims are Hezbollah tunnels channelled under the Israel-Lebanon border.

Operation Northern Shield is the culmination of a four-year intelligence effort to locate tunnels under Israel's northern border, which according to a military spokesman are "part of a Hezbollah surprise plan to infiltrate its fighters into Israel to attack civilian villages, army positions, snatch soldiers and civilian hostages and hold terrain, before exfiltrating back to Lebanon". Israel said the tunnel originated under a house around the Lebanese village of Kfar Kela and crossed the border near Israel's northernmost town, Metula.

Additional IDF troops were deployed to northern Israel as a precaution against potential attacks by Hezbollah, but no reservists were called up.

No details were given about how detected tunnels would be put out of use.

On Sunday night, the US State Dept. issued a statement following Secretary Pompeo's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying "the Secretary emphasized the United States' commitment to Israel's security and absolute right to self-defense and to fighting anti-Israeli bias at the United Nations".

It later published a photograph of a tunnel that it said it had uncovered.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah and its Al-Manar TV did not make any mention of the Israeli operation.

"Whoever tries to harm Israel will pay a heavy price", Netanyahu said in a statement after returning to Israel early in the morning. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the group's military activities with the media.

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It said the army had "enhanced its presence and readiness" and was prepared for "various scenarios".

Since the end of the 2006 war, Israeli forces have regularly violated Lebanon's sovereignty, with the regime's officials threatening another military offensive against the Arab country.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian military targets and deliveries of advanced arms to Hezbollah.

Before his departure, Netanyahu hinted at the Israel operation. Amid the crisis he took on the defence portfolio from his resigning minister and promised to pursue a hard line against Israel's enemies during what he described as a "complex" security situation.

"The Hezbollah terror organization, which is responsible for digging the cross-border attack tunnels, continues activity that is supported and funded by Iran, to establish its terror infrastructure against Israeli civilians".

Hezbollah, meanwhile, has also been heavily engaged in Syria, where it is battling alongside government forces.

Neither side appears interested quite yet in another full-fledged confrontation like the 2006 war, but any skirmish could spark an all-out conflict along the tense border.