TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Hezbollah cross-border tunnels currently being destroyed by the IDF are part of a “daring” broader plan to infiltrate Israel and capture parts of the Galilee.
“The aim of Hezbollah is to dig tunnels into our territory. It is part of an effort with a breadth and depth that we have not seen before,” Netanyahu said during a televised address.
The prime minister continued by saying that Operation Northern Shield, launched by the IDF on Tuesday morning, will continue until “all of its aims are achieved.”
The IDF on Tuesday evening mobilized artillery and unrolled a partial mobilization of reservists from the Air Force and Military Intelligence to thwart potential backlash from Hezbollah.
The IDF said earlier that it had uncovered the “first of sure to be many” subterranean attack tunnels.
The 200-meter tunnel, which originated in a private home in Qafr Kila in southern Lebanon and penetrated some 40 meters into Israel’s north near the town of Metulla, did not present an immediate threat, the army said. However, the IDF emphasized that the tunnels were offensive in nature. Hezbollah terrorists were still working in the tunnel when the IDF exposed it Tuesday morning.
A video released by the IDF shows a Hezbollah terror operative enter the Metulla tunnel and approach a camera planted there by the IDF. A bomb explodes, causing the man to scurry back in the other direction.
Netanyahu, who spoke from the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv alongside IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, said that the Galilee plan was part of Iran’s broader efforts.
“Capturing parts of the Galilee by Hezbollah is a concrete threat,” he said. “It is also part of a regional and global terror effort led by Iran.”
“These cross-border terror tunnels were built by Hezbollah with direct support and funding from Iran. They were built with one purpose in mind — to attack and murder innocent Israeli men, women and children. This is a grave violation of Israel’s sovereignty, and a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution #1701. It is an unacceptable act of wanton aggression.”
The prime minister, who is also serving as defense minister following Avigdor Liberman’s resignation last month, then addressed the people of Lebanon directly.
“Hezbollah is putting your lives in danger. They are sacrificing your well-being to serve the aggressive purposes of Iran,” he said.
He also noted that Israel’s actions in Syria over the past few years have resulted in a 10% decrease in the number of Iranian soldiers in the country.
Netanyahu said that the decision to launch Operation Northern Shield was made a few weeks ago. The comment follows speculation that the move was part of a deflection effort following recent calls by police for his indictment.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot confirmed that the decision was approved by the cabinet on November 7, dating it before the two-day rocket onslaught from Hamas that prompted Liberman’s resignation.
“This morning we initiated action to thwart Hezbollah’s intrusion into our territory, to improve our security reality in the north … to strike and to continue to strike Iranian entrenchment in the north,” Eisenkot said.
He added that the IDF was “in control” of the situation and that Israelis should feel safe in the knowledge that the operation was launched before the tunnels “became an immediate and direct threat to northern communities and army bases.”