Lebanon's president orders 'close monitoring' of Israeli anti-tunnel operation

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Israel's army said Tuesday it had detected Hizbullah tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them, a move likely to raise tensions with the Iran-backed group.

The operation comes hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a last- minute trip to Brussels to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Israeli military for its part says it has always been aware that Hezbollah has been building attack tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel at several points along the border.

The interior of what Israel says is an attack tunnel dug by the Hezbollah terror group that crossed into Israeli territory from south of the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila, December 4, 2018.

All operations would take place within Israeli territory, Conricus said, though it still raised the risk of a response from Hizbullah, the Shiite group with which Israel fought a devastating war in 2006.

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Israel has spent years dismantling a network of tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israel, using several methods to destroy them and prevent them from being rebuilt.

Israel has been using earthmovers and other large machinery to build a massive wall along its northern border, saying the barrier is needed to protect civilians from Hezbollah attacks.

Malene Jensen, spokeswoman for the United Nations force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL, said the situation in the peacekeepers' "area of operation remains calm" and that they are in touch with all relevant parties to make sure calm and stability is maintained.

In 2012, Israel became aware of Hezbollah's "plan to conquer the Galilee", as it was termed by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The operation was launched before dawn on Tuesday, with the army declaring some areas adjacent to the Lebanon border a closed military zone and deploying additional forces to the north.

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Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nahshon said Hezbollah is under the direction of Iran.

Since the start of that war, more than 200 strikes were carried out by Israel according to its military. He took over the defense portfolio from his resigning minister and promised to pursue a hard line against Israel's enemies during what he described as a "complex" security situation.

The UNIFIL peacekeeping force was tasked with ensuring "the immediate cessation" of attacks by Hezbollah and the cessation of all military operations on the border by both sides under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted to end the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.

Israel also faces terror tunnels in the south from the Hamas terror organization in Gaza.

A Hezbollah official told al-Nahar that Netanyahu was "in crisis" and had manufactured the confrontation in order to distract from his legal and political troubles.

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Hezbollah emerged with the help of Iran during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon in the early 1980s.

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