Netanyahu: Hezbollah tunnels were part of plan to occupy part of Galilee

Eizenkot says plan was approved a month ago; Netanyahu says operation will continue until goals achieved

Hezbollah fighter in attack tunnel, December 4, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The Hezbollah terror tunnels that the IDF began revealing and dismantling on Tuesday were part of a broad Hezbollah plan to infiltrate terrorists into Israel and occupy parts of the Galilee, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening.
Netanyahu said that this plan was of a “scope and daring” that Israel had not seen before. He said that Operation Northern Shield, as the operation was dubbed, will continue “as long as it is needed, until all of its goals are attained.
“Hezbollah knows very well that anyone who attacks Israel will pay a heavy price,” he said from the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, with chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot next to him on the podium.
Netanyahu, who returned from Brussels in the early hours of the morning from a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said he spoke to the US diplomat about imposing additional sanctions on Hezbollah in light of “this new aggression.” The US, he said, has given Israel its full backing.
Netanyahu spoke after a brief video clip was shown – which the IDF spokesman said was taken in the morning – of a Hezbollah man entering a tunnel that penetrated Israel near Metulla. As he approached a camera that the IDF left in the tunnel, a bomb exploded.
The prime minister said that the operation against the tunnels was part of Israel’s wider operation against the regional terror network directed from Iran. He said that Israel’s actions to prevent the entrenchment of Iranian forces in Syria have led to a significant drop of the number of Iranian soldiers in Syria.
Netanyahu’s statement, aired to the nation during prime time at 8:00 p.m., came after a meeting he and Eisenkot had with the security cabinet, which was appraised of the day’s activities.
Eisenkot, in his brief comments, said that the cabinet approved the plans on November 7, meaning that the decision came before last month’s crisis in the Gaza Strip when Hamas fired 460 rockets at Israel in 48 hours.
Netanyahu referred to that crisis when he recalled saying at the time – while under criticism for not taking stronger action against Hamas – that not everything could be revealed.
“We are now revealing just a small part of the whole picture of capabilities, actions and what we plan to do to ensure Israel’s security on all fronts,” he said.
Netanyahu expressed appreciation to Eisenkot, as well as to former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who he said was “a partner in the operation’s preparation.”
Liberman resigned last month after disagreeing with what he considered to be the government’s overly soft policy regarding the rockets from Gaza.
Netanyahu said that Israel mobilized the best of its intelligence and technological capabilities to detect the tunnels, and in so doing has robbed Hezbollah – as well as Hamas in the South – of a weapon that they invested “a fortune” in developing. Israel’s technology on this issue, he said, has no peer in the world.
Touching on a Hanukkah theme, Netanyahu said that “thanks to the heroism of our soldiers, and the resilience of our residents, the light of Israel overcomes the darkness around us.”
Eisenkot called on residents of the North, as well as the rest of the country, to carry on with their regular daily routines.
Netanyahu said earlier in the day that Israel “will continue with other actions, overt and covert, to ensure its security.”