Lebanon-Israel border 'quiet' despite operation

Lebanon-Israel border 'quiet' despite operation

Announcing the launch of Operation Northern Shield, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said "a number of tunnels" have penetrated Israeli territory.

Hezbollah is backed by Iran, Israel's main enemy.

"The digging of the cross-border attack tunnels, which the IDF discovered before they became operational and posed an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians, constitutes a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty", the IDF said in a statement.

Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the Lebanese government was responsible for the build-up of the tunnels.

Bulldozers and military vehicles were seen operating near the pastoral Israeli border town of Metula on Tuesday.

All operations would take place within Israeli territory, Conricus said, though they were likely to boost tensions with Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group with which Israel fought a devastating war in 2006.

Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister and foreign minister, returned to Israel from Brussels early on Tuesday, after a snap meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which the two discussed the operation. No special instructions were issued for Israeli civilians in the area.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pictured in front of a menorah on the second night of the Hanukkah festival, during their meeting on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation conference in Brussels, Belgium, on December 3, 2018. The IDF did not disclose how many tunnels there are or how long the operation would last. "All of that allowed us this morning to launch an operation based on a good picture we've constructed in an effort to expose (Hezbollah's) project and neutralize it".

Israel and Hezbollah have avoided any major conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border since their last war in 2006, though Israel has mounted attacks in Syria targeting what it said were advanced weapon deliveries to the Shia group.

There have been outbreaks of violence between Israel and Hezbollah across the Israel-Lebanon border, which is heavily fortified.

The IDF added that it had "enhanced its presence and readiness in the Northern Command and is prepared for various scenarios".

Hezbollah, which possesses one of the most powerful militias in the region, has threatened to attack Israel with its vast rocket arsenal if war breaks out.

There has been increased attention in Israel in recent days over Israeli officials' concerns regarding Iranian activity in Lebanon.

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