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Israel Hayom

Fog of war can’t conceal Hezbollah’s plotting

A second tunnel discovered under the Israel-Lebanon border, and a border clash between IDF troops and Hezbollah operatives, prove the threat on the northern frontier is very real.

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, makes a rare public appearance in a suburb of Beirut in July 2008. Credit: Ferran Queved/Flash90.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, makes a rare public appearance in a suburb of Beirut in July 2008. Credit: Ferran Queved/Flash90.
Yoav Limor
Yoav Limor
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

Northern Israel was covered by thick fog during the weekend with near-zero visibility. The ‎rain came and went, mostly drizzling and ‎turning everything that was not concrete into mud. ‎

Someone just passing through would probably be ‎unable to tell anything was wrong or that the entire area ‎was on edge. The partial military restrictions ‎imposed on a section of the border when “Operation ‎Northern Shield” was launched last week have already ‎been lifted, and nothing could be said for a military ‎presence beyond the sporadic military vehicle ‎driving around. For all intents and purposes, this ‎was just another rainy Saturday in northern Israel. ‎

This facade, however, successfully hid the military’s nonstop ‎efforts to ‎neutralize Hezbollah terror tunnels snaking under ‎the Israel-Lebanon border.‎

The decision to continue the search for tunnels over ‎the weekend was unorthodox, and not only because it ‎involved operations on Shabbat. The work was hindered ‎by the stormy weather, but the complex engineering ‎and logistics effort involved in this intense ‎operation never waned. If anything, the IDF kept ‎pushing and everyone—from GOC Northern Command ‎Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick to the last special combat ‎engineering soldier deployed on the ground—seemed ‎to be accelerating the pace.‎

The Israeli operation is currently underway in several locations ‎simultaneously. One of them is a tunnel running ‎under the northern town of Metula and on Saturday ‎afternoon, another significant tunnel was ‎discovered. ‎

A security incident interrupted the work on Saturday ‎when IDF commandos securing the operation came ‎across three Hezbollah operatives trying to exploit ‎the fog to steal technical equipment. The troops ‎opened fire and the three fled, but the incident ‎stressed the prudence of increasing military ‎deployment along the border, as the threat is very ‎real. ‎

Hezbollah may be biding its time quietly at the moment, but it very well may retaliate—not just verbally (though Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is sure to give a fiery speech eventually), but also physically, in the battlefield. There is real concern ‎that Hezbollah operatives could booby-trap one of the ‎tunnels, use the weather to plant roadside bombs or ‎try to target the Israeli troops with sniper fire. ‎

These scenarios are passed on to the soldiers in ‎every security briefing. Anyone who scoffed at the fact that this military activity was labeled an “operation” is welcome to ‎visit the border and see how palpable the threat actually is.‎

The military effort on the ground is only part of ‎the overall effort. In the background, the Israeli ‎Air Force is gearing up for potential escalation, and ‎Military Intelligence is fully engaged as well. ‎

Another important aspect is the international diplomatic effort, where Israel engages in ‎massive public diplomacy. ‎Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been briefing ‎world leaders on the issue since last week, ‎including, and perhaps most importantly, Russian ‎President Vladimir Putin.‎

The U.N. Security Council is expected to ‎discuss a draft resolution condemning Lebanon on ‎Monday over the fact that it turns a blind eye to ‎Hezbollah’s activities, and Israel would like to see ‎Russia refrain from using its veto power on the ‎issue.‎

Israel would like to see international pressure on the Lebanese government stir up a ‎public debate in the country and prompt criticism of ‎the Shi’ite terrorist group, despite the considerable ‎political power it wields. Lebanon has so far ‎remained indifferent, but it is doubtful whether ‎Beirut could keep that up for long. “Operation ‎Northern Shield” is expected to last several weeks, ‎and the daily media attention to the issue will turn ‎the spotlight on Lebanon’s actions or lack thereof‎. ‎

Still, nothing essential is likely to change, ‎except, of course, for the fact that Israel has deprived ‎Hezbollah of a major strategic asset. This cannot be ‎taken lightly, as one need not have a particularly ‎wild imagination to understand what Hezbollah had ‎planned for Metula and other Israeli communities ‎along the border. Some of the tunnels were on the ‎verge of becoming operational in the coming weeks. If an attack had been launched using those tunnels, the first question for the ‎political echelon and the IDF would have been, “If ‎you knew, why didn’t you do anything?”‎

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

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