On the evening of December 3rd, Israel’s Defense Forces launched an operation to destroy cross-border tunnels between Lebanon and Israel allegedly constructed by Hezbollah.
The “operation” is called Northern Shield and according to IDF reports the locations of the tunnels were discovered on the morning of December 4th and their demolition has begun.
Reuters cited Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus who said that he operation would only take place on Israel’s side of the border and that it would not extend into Lebanon.
“We see the Hezbollah activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli authority,” he said.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) December 4, 2018
In a tweet, Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the Lebanese government is responsible for the build-up of the tunnels, saying they are endangering Lebanese citizens.
IDF spokesperson Ronen Manelis said that the construction of the tunnels in a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
“We’ve been preparing for this morning for a very long time,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about the number [of tunnels], those details will stay classified,” said Manelis, “It suffices to say that it is a small number. Work has started near Metullah, and in the coming days the operation will expand to other sections of the homefront.”
“The fact that Hezbollah has tunnels crossing the border into Israeli territory is proof of a flagrant violation of Israeli sovreignty,” Manelis said. “We see this as a very serious situation that hurts Lebanon and the citizens of Lebanon, and we hold the Lebanese government accountable. We have indisputable proof that the Lebanese government is not in control of their border. Iranian money is behind these tunnels.”
Manelis also added that the tunnels were unfinished and didn’t actually present any threat whatsoever to Israel.
Lebanese online news portal Tayyar reported that the IDF was excavating areas opposite the Lebanese villages of Adaisseh and Kfarkela on the southern border. Hezbollah declared that it had put its forces on combat on a high combat readiness to confront a possible agression.
Al Jazeera correspondent Natasha Ghoneim claimed that the Israeli operation is a rare occurrence.
“Israeli military spokespeople are saying they have discovered tunnels made by Hezbollah and that they are attempting to thwart any attack from Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel,” Ghoneim said. “Since Hezbollah had its war with Israel in 2006, we haven’t seen this kind of operation in the north as there has been a tense detente between Hezbollah and Israel.”
Also, on December 3rd, Israel’s Defense Minister, Health Minister, Foreign Minister and Prime Minister travelled to Brussels to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. All four of the Israeli officials are, in fact, Benjamin Netanyahu since he still assumes all of those posts. He was accompanied to the meeting by Mossad head Yossi Cohen; National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat; and his military secretary Avi Blot.
According to Haaretz, the meeting was arranged in the morning and by the afternoon Netanyahu was flying to the capital of the EU, where Pompeo was attending a summit of NATO Foreign Ministers.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Benjamin Netanyahu took a warning for Lebanon, that Pompeo needed to deliver.
“Stop Hezbollah’s efforts to get precision guided missiles, or Israel will do so,” was the message.
“We are in continuous contact with our American friends,” Netanyahu said before taking off. “I will discuss with Mike Pompeo a list of developments in our region, and [actions] we are taking together to halt the aggression of Iran and its proxies in the North. We will of course also discuss other issues.”
It is noteworthy that this “short victorious war” and Netanyahu’s trip to Brussels followed a recommendation by Israeli police to indict the Prime Minister and his wife on allegations of corruption. This is the third occasion in which Benjamin Netanyahu is being accused of corruption in just 2018.
Police say Netanyahu had a “bribery relationship” with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq. They say Netanyahu advanced regulation favoring Elovitch, apparently concerning the merger of two telecom companies that netted Elovitch millions of dollars. This set of corruption charges is also the most significant, because it brought large regulatory favors to the telecom shareholder.
In February 2018, police recommended he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two other cases.
“One case concerns allegations that between 2007 and 2016, Netanyahu received about $282,000 worth of gifts in the form of cigars, champagne and jewelry from Australian businessman James Packer, the ex-fiancé of singer Mariah Carey, and from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Another case concerns allegations that Netanyahu offered to advance legislation favoring a newspaper publisher in exchange for positive press coverage in the paper,” NPR reported.
Israel’s attorney general, who was appointed by Netanyahu himself, must now study the police recommendations and decide if there is sufficient evidence to indict the Prime Minister.
Regardless, according to Israeli law, a Prime Minister is not required to resign if he is indicted. Netanyahu has indicated that if he is charged, he would stand trial without stepping down. And he has repeatedly shown that he is set on democratically holding on to power and assuming as many ministerial seats as possible, all of them if need be.
Thus, the operation against unfinished Hezbollah infiltration infrastructure is a way to ensure a quick win that would show the Israeli people that their Prime Minister is, in fact, in control and that his government brings stability and security.