For the last week, Middle East headlines have rightly been dominated by Israel’s Operation Northern Shield to destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels that snake into Israeli territory.
Almost entirely missing from the dialogue surrounding the tunnel threat, however, is that Hezbollah does not make a move without the full backing of the Shiite terrorist organization’s Iranian patrons and controllers. Indeed, Hezbollah is for all intents and purposes an international extension of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and could not possibly have engaged in the terror tunneling without direction from Iran.
To be clear, a de facto military arm of Iran has just been caught violating Israeli sovereignty, likely for years, and prepping future guerilla warfare in which an untold number of Israelis could have been murdered. The ramifications of Iran’s unspoken but obvious fingerprints on the Hezbollah tunneling project are enormous.
Speaking to foreign envoys on a tour of Israel’s border with Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained the tunnels are wide enough to infiltrate full battalions into the Jewish state with the possible goal of cutting off and even occupying Israeli Golan Heights communities while killing and kidnapping Israelis.
“If you look at the Hamas tunnels, they’re very narrow, basically for one person. The Hezbollah tunnels are broad. They enable several people to come at one and also to put motorcycles, I’m pretty sure tractors and so on,” Netanyahu stated.
The structure, he said, was constructed “in order to bring in many forces, simultaneously, which means several battalions into our territory, with the purpose of cutting off communities here, towns, kibbutzim, and then going into a campaign of murder and kidnapping, which could happen simultaneously.”
Such warfare would likely be carried out while Iran’s Hezbollah proxy fired large numbers of missiles, rockets and mortars into Israeli cities. This while Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip could be activated to wage rocket war on Israel’s southern and central communities.
So far, three major Hezbollah (again, read “Iranian”) tunnels have been discovered inside Israel. One was uncovered in the northern Israeli village of Metulla, while a second stretched from Lebanon into Israel near the Golan Heights village of Zarit. The third tunnel was publically identified by Israel on Tuesday. Still more tunnels are likely to be uncovered.
These unmistakably Iran-backed tunnels are a blatant violation of ceasefire agreements that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War as well as other agreements negotiated in previous years. The militant excavations expose the uselessness of the 10,400-member UNIFIL “peacekeeper” force tasked with monitoring border violations in keeping with the even more useless United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.
That same resolution is violated on a daily basis. The text calls for the dismantlement of all armed groups inside Lebanon, making Hezbollah’s very existence illegal. The UN resolution singles out Hezbollah as being barred from deploying south of the Litani River, meaning within 12 miles of the Israeli border (exactly where Hezbollah was caught tunneling).
Despite its mission, the industrious UNIFIL says it had no evidence of tunnels that were constructed under the very zone where its forces are deployed. So the tunnels show the world that only Israel can ultimately ensure its own security.
More than that, the tunnels expose Iran’s Hezbollah foot soldiers as brazenly preparing offensive warfare inside Israel. The IDF says that it spotted militants still inside one tunnel. Building terror tunnels that open inside the Jewish state is almost an act of war itself. Israel must calibrate its response carefully while taking Iran’s hostile actions into full consideration.
For now, Israel has restricted Operation Northern Shield to destroying the tunnels on its own side of the border. However, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz implied the IDF could extend the critical mission inside southern Lebanon if that becomes necessary. “If we think that in order to thwart the tunnels that one needs to operate on the other side — then we will operate on the other side of the border,” Katz told Israeli radio.
Iran has been humiliated and strategically devastated by Israel’s repeated strikes against Iran-run military bases in Syria, and has been feeling the pressure. Israel seems to be calculating that Iran will restrain Hezbollah for fear of igniting a larger Israeli operation that could unleash massive damage on Iran’s illegal military infrastructure inside Lebanon.
At the same time, the tunneling shows that an increasingly desperate Iran is willing to take dangerous risks to achieve its goal of strangling Israel from the south and the north. If the IDF operation moves to a second phase inside Lebanon, which could become necessary, it is doubtful Iran would not order some response. And while that response could be intentionally limited, Iran’s unpredictability and the recklessness of the tunnels make clear that the IDF must be prepared for any eventuality.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.