IDF Spokesman Contradicts Netanyahu: Operation Against Hezbollah Tunnels Not Over Yet

'There is more work to be done' and IDF has intel on additional tunnels, military spokesman says after Netanyahu insists not to label efforts on the border as operation

Israeli troops operating along the border with Lebanon earlier this week.
Gil Eliyahu

The Israeli military's spokesperson Ronen Manelis said on Thursday that  Israeli action on the border with Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels was yet to be completed.

"There is more to be done," Manelis said, but noted that the Israel Defense Forces finished locating and demolishing tunnels that were dug in Lebanon's Kafr Kila and reached the northern Israeli town of Metula.

>> Attack tunnels on the Israel-Lebanon border are only a prelude to the real Hezbollah threat | Analysis

Manelis also said that the army had more information about additional tunnels.

The Israeli army spokesman made his comments after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Operation Northern Shield "was mostly done."

So far, the military destroyed five tunnels that crossed from Lebanon into Israel. Manelis said that "as far as IDF professionals understand, these tunnels cannot be rendered operational in the future."

He added that "there is more work to be done to uncover and neutralize [tunnels]" but noted that Israel is going to downscale its troops in the area and that "a decision will be made regarding which troops are going to stay and which will be sent away."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touring the northern border earlier this week along with cabinet ministers.
Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry

Netanyahu said Tuesday that the operation to uncover and destroy Hezbollah's tunnels was nearing its end during a security cabinet tour along the northern border. The prime minister also asked the defense establishment to announce that the operation was over but to keep up work to dismantle the tunnels.

Netanyahu's remarks contradict comments by senior army officials over the past several days, according to which the operation is likely to last for a few more weeks. A senior officer in the army's northern command said that work on the tunnels will continue for a long time and that Israeli troops are prepared for a prolonged stay in the area.

A different officer from the command said in the beginning of the week that the army was still "trying to understand until when it was right to continue Northern Shield as an operation and when it would be right to transition to regular activity."

According to this officer, the Israeli army prefers to continue defining work along the Lebanese border as a military operation, because this would make it easier to allocate the resources necessary to destroy the tunnels.

Earlier Thursday, the IDF presented images that contradict Hezbollah's claim that the site where the first tunnel discovered by Israel was a chicken coop and not a brick factory.

After Hezbollah invited media teams to document the coop, the Israeli army sealed off the tunnel with cement. The published pictures show the cement flowing from Israel toward the factory in Lebanon.