The IDF fired warning shots across its tense Lebanese border to halt an attempted infiltration as it continued to publish information on a third Hezbollah attack tunnel.
It was the first instance of gunfire along the border since the IDF last week began Operation Northern Shield along its side of the northern border to destroy Hezbollah tunnels.
In an interview with Fox & Friends Weekend that will be broadcast over the weekend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Hezbollah attack tunnels were part of Iran’s plan to destroy Israel.
Tehran wants to use its proxies, principally Hezbollah, “to be the forward arm to attack Israel with a goal of destroying it.
IDF exposes second Hezbollah tunnel from Lebanon, December 9, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson)
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“As part of that Hezbollah is building terror tunnels under Israel’s territory. We’ve known that for several years, and a few days ago we tore the mask off, uncovered the first stone, and we’re going to uncover the rest, and basically deprive Iran of this weapon of aggression,” Netanyahu said.
After the IDF published information on a third tunnel, the location of which has not yet been made known, Netanyahu lauded their work on Saturday night.
"The IDF and the security establishment are continuing to operate in the north with great success. They are systematically and decisively eliminating Hezbollah's tunnels weapon.” Netanyahu said.
“This operation is just beginning; equanimity and patience are required. We will continue to work until it is completed; this is what we will do,” he added.
According to the military, while militants belonging to the Shiite terror organization had been working on it just hours before it was found on Saturday, it poses no threat to Israeli residents.
“Whoever enters the tunnel from the Lebanese side risks his life,” IDF Spokespersons Brig.-Gen. Ronen Maneli said.
On Saturday, IDF troops spotted three suspicious figures attempting to approach the border area where the IDF was carrying out tunnel excavation work, Manelis told reporters.
“The troops opened fire on the suspects as per the rules of engagement,” Manlis said, explaining that the men who had taken advantage of the bad weather to steal IDF equipment, fled the area.
The IDF believes the three people could belong to Hezbollah but according to Lebanon’s National News Agency IDF troops opened fire on a Lebanese army patrol “because of heavy fog in the area.”
The IDF said that it only plans to operate against the Hezbollah attack tunnels on the Israeli side of the border, but Lebanon fears that Israel won’t be bound by that limitation and will also operate against the tunnels in southern Lebanon.
On Friday, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who is also a member of Israel’s security cabinet, appeared to indicate that Israel could consider military action in southern Lebanese territory if 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 Radio Tel Aviv 102FM.
On Thursday the IDF published information on the Shiite Lebanese village of Ramya, and gave that data to the Untied Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, asking it to demolish it on the Lebanese side. But an IDF spokesperson clarified that the army has not physically uncovered its entrance on the Israeli side.
Another tunnel, which the IDF exposed on Tuesday, led from Kafr Killa into Israel. A third tunnel has been identified, but its location has not been publicized.
Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations in New York Kacou Houadja Léon Adom on Thursday sent a letter to the security council in which he warned that Israel planned to attack his country as part of Operation Northern Shield.
In his letter to the UNSC, which was published by Israel on Friday, Adom said that Israel has already “breached the Lebanese communications grid by hacking into the telephone network and sending recorded messages to peaceable civilian inhabitants of the southern part of the village of Kafr Killa warning them of imminent explosions to take place on Lebanese territory that might put their lives at risk.”
“This constitutes a new and extremely serious attack on the security and safety of the citizens of Lebanon, whereby Israel is violating the dignity and privacy of individuals and making a direct threat against their lives,” the envoy said.
He accused Israel of violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set out the cease fire terms that ended the Second Lebanon war in 2006. Even before the tunnel operation, the envoy said, Israel was routinely violating Lebanese airspace, something that is probating under Resolution 1701.
A report by the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month said that there had been a increase of 35% in Israeli aerial activity over Lebanon. His office has accused both sides of violating Resolution 1701.
The Lebanese envoy called on the UNSC to “take all measures necessary to confront this systematic campaign being waged by Israel and Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanese sovereignty, which are a threat to the security and stability of the entire region.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said, “The Lebanese government, under whose rule Hezbollah has established an underground network of missiles and has dug tunnels entering into Israel, is hypocritically seeking to condemn Israel, which is working to defend its citizens.
“Israel calls on the Security Council to convene as soon as possible to discuss the actual violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, as clearly revealed this week in Operation Northern Shield. In the upcoming debate, we will present conclusive evidence of Hezbollah's violations and the willful blindness of the Lebanese government,” Danon said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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