The complex game of chess on the Israel-Lebanon ‎border saw the Israel Defense Forces take one of Hezbollah’s rooks or ‎knights, but not its king or queen.

In other words, ‎while “Operation Northern Shield,” seeking to thwart ‎Hezbollah tunnels ‎snaking under the security fence, marks a serious achievement for Israel and deals ‎Hezbollah a massive blow, it by no means spells the ‎kind of checkmate that could determine the outcome ‎of a future war in Lebanon.

Hezbollah planned its tunnel grid as a strategic ‎surprise (now lost), but that is not what will ‎change its plans. Hezbollah has bigger problems, ‎namely the political turmoil in Lebanon and the ‎economic crisis plaguing it, both of which are ‎aggravated by the looming prospect of a wider-scale ‎Israeli operation against its precision-missile ‎production sites in Lebanon.‎

Israel’s focus on Hezbollah’s missile upgrade ‎efforts was precisely what allowed the IDF to take ‎the Shi’ite terrorist group by surprise on Tuesday.‎ Intelligence about Hezbollah’s tunnel-digging ‎enterprise was diligently gathered and documented ‎over a long period of time, providing conclusive ‎evidence as part of the international public-‎diplomacy campaign Israel is mounting while ‎operations on the ground continue. ‎

With all due respect to IDF bulldozers, the real ‎objective of “Operation Northern Shield” is meant for the ‎international community The Israeli message is ‎clear: Hezbollah violated U.N. Resolution 1701 ‎‎(which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War) and ‎breached Israeli sovereignty, and its actions may bring a war ‎to the region.‎

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his Iranian ‎patrons remained mum Tuesday, proving they were ‎caught red-handed. It was only last Thursday that ‎Hezbollah urged the Lebanese government to protect ‎its airspace from “Israeli aggression,” and now it ‎turns out it is involved in a highly precarious ‎endeavor. ‎

Israel hopes exposing Hezbollah’s tunnels will spark ‎an internal debate within Lebanon as to the Shi’ite ‎terrorist group’s assertion that it is the country’s ‎‎”defender,” as its actions clearly jeopardize ‎Lebanon’s security.‎

“Operation Northern Shield” is expected to continue for ‎several weeks. The IDF is currently working to ‎neutralize one tunnel near Metula and has several ‎other tunnels in its sights. The operation is ‎currently taking place solely on Israeli soil, but ‎it may entail operating in Lebanese territory as ‎well, something Israel is likely to do only if it is ‎sure Hezbollah would be able to contain such action.‎

This teaches us that deterrence works both ways. The ‎origins of the tunnel breaching Metula is just a few ‎dozen feet from the Lebanese side of the border. ‎Under normal circumstances, the IDF would cross the ‎border and destroy it, but right now it cannot do ‎that, so as to avoid escalation.‎

This is a prudent decision, on two conditions: ‎first, that the tunnels can be completely destroyed ‎from the Israeli side; and second, that Hezbollah will ‎not conclude that Israel is completely averse to ‎operating in Lebanese territory. ‎

Given Hezbollah’s armament efforts, the stakes are ‎much higher and if Hezbollah is led to believe it ‎has any kind of immunity, the price Israel will be ‎made to pay in the future will be much higher.‎

Hezbollah may have wanted to use the tunnels as a ‎tactical instrument, but one must remember that it ‎doesn’t really need them to stage an incursion into ‎an Israeli community near the border. The tunnels’ ‎strength lies in the element of surprise, but ‎Hezbollah’s real strength lies with its sizeable ‎missile arsenal and tens of thousands of operatives. ‎

Israel must focus its efforts on generating ‎deterrence and the fact that the United States is willing to ‎impose new sanctions on Hezbollah will surely help, ‎but the Shi’ite terrorist group will find a way ‎around that as well—that much we know from past ‎experience. ‎

And two side notes: First, speculations that there ‎are ulterior motives to the timing of this operation ‎are baseless. Those in the know are familiar with ‎the timetable and the process that preceded ‎greenlighting this operation; and those who need to ‎know understand that the timing was based on intelligence ‎and technological considerations, and that once the ‎opportunity presented itself, the operation was a ‎go. ‎

Second, the media attention the operation received ‎was a tad overboard. Exposing the tunnels was a ‎significant achievement, but it did not ‎fundamentally change the situation vis-à-vis ‎Hezbollah. Israel still has a myriad of challenges ‎to overcome on the Lebanese front. ‎

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