The breakthrough in Israel’s effort to locate Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels from Lebanon occurred a little over a year ago, with the army applying some of the lessons it learned on the Gaza border.
The army said Tuesday it combined technology with intelligence, adapting the latter to the north’s rocky terrain. Since then, efforts to find the tunnels have accelerated; Northern Command officers predict that it will take several weeks to locate and destroy all of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels.
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Over the past two months, Northern Command and Military Intelligence concluded with a high degree of certainty that they had identified the existence of several attack tunnels below the border fence into Israel.
At that point, preparations began for the large-scale engineering operation that began Tuesday morning. The General Staff held periodic discussions on the progress of the tunnel-locating venture, which was coordinated by the head of Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick.
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The army said the rocky terrain near the Lebanese border actually made seismic locating technologies more effective than they were in the sandy terrain near the Gaza Strip. These technologies are based on identifying movements in the earth caused by digging. Thus to monitor the digging in this rocky terrain, the army used different methods than it has in the south.
Northern Command officers predicted that it will take several weeks to locate and destroy all of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels, or in the worst case a little longer. But this assessment is based on an optimistic intelligence assessment – that the army will be able to identity with a high degree of certainly the entire routes of these tunnels.
In any case, there are far fewer tunnels up north than the 17 that have been discovered and destroyed along the Gaza border over the past year.
Judging by Hezbollah’s activity along the northern border, the organization was apparently surprised by Israel’s discovery of the tunnels and did not connect recent developments – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Brussels to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – with the tunnel issue. But as of Tuesday, no unusual Hezbollah activity was evident along the border in response to Israel’s operation.
The army predicted that the organization will eschew any military response, at least initially, because Israel is destroying the tunnels on its own side of the border. Still, the military is beefing up its defensive deployment in case an incident occurs, for any reason, that could spark an escalation along the border.