IDF discovers an additional Hezbollah tunnel entering Israel from Lebanon as part of Operation Northern Shield.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Operation Northern Shield may not uncover all of Hezbollah’s tunnels, but should end its aspirations to invade Israel, said IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heyman at the Calcalist conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
The statement was the first public acknowledgment in weeks that the operation may not end the Hezbollah attack tunnel threat, although the comments emphasized Israel’s ability to deter a Hezbollah invasion.
Hezbollah operatives discover concrete spilling from attack tunnel to Israel, January 1, 2019 (IDF)
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“I want to emphasize that we are not talking about an operation whose goal is to destroy the attack tunnel capability of Hezbollah, but rather…to thwart Hezbollah’s primary attack plan,” he said.
Heyman said that Hezbollah’s plan had been to “conquer villages on the Northern border and to penetrate the area near the border,” that would prevent Israel from unleashing a stronger military force or to focus its attacks solely on the Lebanese side of the border.
While the IDF has already uncovered five Hezbollah tunnels – Hamas had 31 in 2014 – Heyman implied that even if the IDF did not uncover all of the tunnels, it could blunt the threat.
He added that while the IDF’s highly classified plan in the North was primarily to eliminate attack tunnels, there were broader goals to the operation.
The IDF intelligence chief explained that even though Hezbollah was deterred from a war, it may have unrealistic expectations that it could still invade Israel and slaughter Israeli citizens in border villages without leading to a war.
Heyman’s message was that by severely blunting Hezbollah’s attack tunnel abilities, even if some abilities remained, it would be heavily discouraged from trying to mount even a limited invasion.
In other words, Hezbollah might fear the IDF’s abilities to deter such an attack, this goes beyond the tunnels which have already been destroyed.
All of this would fulfill the IDF’s goal of making a war with Hezbollah less likely.
Finally, he said that the IDF’s experience in uncovering the attack tunnels opened up new tactical advantages it could use against Hezbollah tunnels also on the Lebanese side of the border. Heyman did not specify whether he was referring to a hypothetical war scenario or covert operations.
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