The Israeli army has sealed the latest Hezbollah attack tunnel that crosses from Lebanon into Israel and effectively concludes its efforts to foil the group’s tunnel program.
The tunnel that was sealed Wednesday is the largest one discovered and the last to be destroyed. Defense officials believe that no more tunnels cross under the northern border.
The latest tunnel is 80 meters (262 feet) deep, equivalent to the height of a 20-story building. In Israel, the tunnel stopped seven meters belowground and was to be finished in the event of war. It ended 77 meters into Israel below an area thick with vegetation.
Israel has submitted information to international agencies about several tunnels that were started in Lebanon and are still a few hundred meters from Israeli territory. The Israeli army is constantly monitoring them to make sure Hezbollah does not extend them.
Defense officials believe that the destruction of the tunnels seriously undercuts Hezbollah’s war plan to take land in the Galilee, as it has threatened to do. But the organization continues to plan for a possible war despite its economic woes and has even raised funds from Lebanese civilians for this purpose.
The Israeli military first announced an operation to destroy cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah last December, dubbing the operation Northern Shield.
The military said it has been aware since 2006 that Hezbollah was trying to construct attack tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel at several points along the border. "We've been preparing for this morning for a very long time," IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis told Army Radio at the time.
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Since then, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has spoken of a plan to take over parts of the Galilee, in northern Israel, in a future conflict.
In January, the operation was declared to be over, but efforts by the army in monitoring and neutralizing tunnels continued.