Israel’s Defense Forces sent 11 Engineering Corps services members to be trained in Europe in preparation of Operation Northern Shield, Haaretz reported.
The outlet reported that the services members were trained and learned from excavation experts about working in rough terrain and with similar rock types as the ones in which Hezbollah dug its tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.
According to the report, the IDF realized it would need to counter Hezbollah’s tunnel project as early as 2015. A team of engineers, intelligence officers and technology experts deemed it necessary to prepare a plan to deal with the tunnels at a later date.
In 2017, it was decided to send 11 members of the corps to Europe for special training to learn about hard-rock excavations.
“We realized we had to train people to excavate,” an anonymous senior IDF officer, who is deeply involved in the operation said prior to the beginning of Northern Shield. “We encountered such tunnels in the Second Lebanon War. We called them ‘nature reserves,’ which served as underground command centers.”
The trip to Europe allegedly allowed the engineering team to learn from the best experts in the world in the field.
“We trained in terrain we weren’t accustomed to, working in hard earth and rocky terrain and in tough areas, in order to learn about excavating,” the officer said.
The IDF reportedly understood that excavating along the northern border would require a different approach than it required near Gaza.
“In contrast to the south, where bucket auger drills remove sand easily and quickly, in the north the army uses diamond drills, which cut through the rock more slowly and make for slow progress.”
At some excavation sites in the north even civilians take part in the drilling, according to Haaretz. Other sites only include members of the Engineering Corps, some of them were part of the team that was trained in Europe.
“We’re preparing the IDF and the corps for all challenges, using professionals we hope will remain in the army for many years,” said the officer.
Reportedly, not many people knew of the existence of Hezbollah tunnels and knowledge of them was kept secret. The people involved in the operation were made to believe that they were participating in routine training.
Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed that the country’s officials had been hiding knowledge of the existence of Hezbollah underground tunnels for years before the IDF announced they were launching a military operation.
Operation Northern Shield was announced on December 4th, to destroy alleged Hezbollah tunnels heading to northern Israel. Israel claimed that the tunnels were to be used to transfer fighters into the country in case of a potential future conflict. The Lebanese Army issued a statement calling Israel’s accusations “mere allegations, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency.
Two tunnels have been reportedly discovered by December 7th and work on collapsing them is on-going.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Israel-Lebanon border on the afternoon of December 6th to brief foreign diplomats on the Israeli army’s operation.
The premier said that, “We are systematically taking the tunnels weapon from our enemies and we will act decisively and systematically against anyone who attacks us. Hezbollah and Hamas know this.” He also did not miss the chance to accuse Iran of being the “one big enemy.”
Also on December 6th, the IDF Twitter account released two propaganda videos in Arabic for residents of Southern Lebanon.
The first video shows a map of Kafr Kila, the Lebanese village in which one of the alleged cross-border attack tunnels was dug. It describes active Hezbollah sites inside civilian areas and finally said “Every third home in southern Lebanon contains terror.”
Look at your next-door neighbors’ houses. If you were living in southern Lebanon, at least one of you would have Hezbollah terror assets in your basement. #UNenforced#CondemnTheTunnels pic.twitter.com/TrN5dIHw5m
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 6, 2018
The second video is a summary overview of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, followed by a list of alleged Hezbollah violations. The videos were subsequently also published in English.
Hezbollah blatantly violates @UN Resolution 1701, including breaching Israeli sovereignty for the sake of harming Israeli civilians. Hezbollah must be stopped. #CondemnTheTunnels
CC: @UN @UNIFIL @antonioguterres @StephDujarric @Tenenti pic.twitter.com/rjmrTuzkkU
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 6, 2018
These two postings were a response to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s accusations that Israel consistently violates Resolution 1701 by infiltrating Lebanese territory and airspace, but stressed that operation Northern Shield and Israel’s accusations are “no reason for escalation.”
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