(January 1, 2019 / JNS) Hezbollah had a bad end to the year.
Israel just discovered and neutralized a fifth tunnel crossing into its territory, and the Israel Defense Forces is likely to discover even more. It looks like Hezbollah’s “Radwan” force—the terrorist unit trained to infiltrate Israel—will not find it easy to capture Israeli communities in the next war. The army blew up two tunnels and flooded others to expose the entry points on the Lebanese side.
Sure enough, when the IDF pumped a mixture of cement and water into the tunnel’s exit point on the Israeli side, the mixture began to pour out of a number of places, including a private home in the Lebanese village of Kila, just over a mile from the Israeli town Metula.
Hezbollah continues to use civilians as a cover for its terrorist activities, in blatant violation of the Geneva Accords and of U.N. Resolution 1701. As of this writing, UNIFIL and the Lebanese army have refused to act even after Israel presented them with the evidence.
Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told JNS that Israel should turn this saga into a diplomatic front through which to set the stage for a preventative attack on missile bases in Lebanon. “At the same time, Israel should stress that by digging the tunnels, Hezbollah violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and even if it is not echoed in U.N. denunciation, to keep saying that as an argument for a forthcoming attack on Hezbollah,” he said.
According to Rabi, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is staying relatively silent as he waits to see to what extent Israel is aware of the tunnels. “It seems he is advised by the [Iran] Revolutionary Guards to stay put,” said Rabi, “especially as the American position of pulling out troops from Syria seems to be really significant for that matter.”
Hezbollah has no problem receiving information. Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said last week that information on the tunnels that Israel had provided to UNIFIL was then passed on to the Lebanese Army, which, in turn, passed it on to Hezbollah.
Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic culture and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS that while Hezbollah is actively laying the groundwork for a future war with Israel, it doesn’t want to go to war right now for a variety of reasons.
“This is an equation with some variables that are not known,” he said. “Israel has its own agenda. Hezbollah has its own agenda, which is connected to the Iranians. There is the Syrian regime, and there is the Russian agenda. It’s a complex picture because it deals with different sides and different parties.”
Israel is purposely refraining from dealing with the tunnel threat on the Lebanese side, and is only neutralizing the tunnels from the Israeli side so as to not provide a pretext for Hezbollah to attack. By doing so, Israel places the onus on UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army to deal with the Lebanon-based tunnels.
All of this is part of a larger context.
As described by Yoram Schweitzer and Ofek Riemer from the Institute for National Security Studies, “Hezbollah’s tunnels constitute only one layer of the threats posed by Hezbollah, Iran and the axis of resistance in Israel’s northern arena. It is joined by the precision missile-production project in Lebanon; the consolidation of Iran’s military presence in Syria, and the efforts to deploy and produce advanced weapons in Syria and establish a Shi’ite military force there; and Iran’s nuclear program.”