Netanyahu Says Israeli Army Nearly Done With Destroying Hezbollah Tunnels

Prime and defense minister says Lebanese organization 'put a lot of effort into it, but we've ruined it for them'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with cabinet ministers briefed on Operation Northern Shield near Lebanese border, December 25, 2018.
Haim Tzach

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israeli army has nearly completed Operation Northern Shield, aimed at destroying Hezbollah's cross-border tunnels, which began earlier this month.

While touring the Lebanese border with cabinet ministers, Netanyahu said the army has presented its "extraordinary work," which has stripped the Iran-backed Shi'ite organization of its attack tunnels. Hezbollah "put a lot of effort into it, but we've ruined it for them," the prime minister added.

>> Read more: Attack tunnels are only a prelude to the real Hezbollah threat ■ 'Hezbollah's Operation Barbarossa': How army chief pushed Netanyahu to go after the tunnels

The army discovered four tunnels dug from Lebanon into Israel and said on Friday that it had started destroying them. IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Thursday that the tunnels would be destroyed in such a way that Hezbollah will not be able to use them whatsoever.

Manelis further warned surrounding residents to stay away from the area where the army was working. "Anyone who does so is endangering their life," he said, adding that the Lebanese government bears responsibility for allowing the tunnels to be dug in the first place.

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported last week that Israel had contacted the Lebanese army via U.S. intermediaries and asked them to help locate and destroy the tunnels in coordination with UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. The report said Israel believed Washington could pressure the Lebanese army by threatening to end military aid.