Israel claims Syria air strike, says hunt for Hezbollah tunnels over

Nellie Chapman
January 14, 2019

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rarely acknowledge striking specific targets in Syria but its outgoing chief of staff just openly confessed to running a large-scale bombing campaign in its neighbor's territory.

UNIFIL has been monitoring the border area between Israel and Lebanon since 1978, and now has 10,000 United Nations troops deployed in the region.

A month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers. While they have at times traded blows within Syria - where Hezbollah has been helping Damascus beat back rebels - the Israel-Lebanon border has mostly been quiet, Reuters reported.

Lt Col Conricus said the sixth tunnel started in the border town of Ramyeh and was 55m (180ft) deep and 800m (2600ft) long.

Conricus said there were no more tunnels reaching Israel from Lebanon but the army was still monitoring "facilities" being dug by Hezbollah within Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels, the existence of which have been confirmed by UNIFIL peacekeepers. "We are thus approaching the completion of the goal we set at the outset of Operation Northern Shield - the eradication of Hezbollah's tunnels weapon", he said. According to Al-Hadath TV channel, the Israeli planes attacked Iranian military warehouses near the airport, which are used by the Hezbollah militias, fighting on the side of the government's army.

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Israel alleges Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill its civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.

Israel gave no initial comment on Friday's reported strikes, but has previously acknowledged carrying out hundreds of attacks in Syria over the years against what it says are Iranian military targets and advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

The highly publicized Israeli operation to expose and destroy the tunnels has gone ahead without drawing a military response from Hezbollah.

Under Eisenkot's command, Netanyahu said the IDF made "great achievements", but added that there "was much more work to be done, which we will do". But with that war winding down, Israeli security officials fear Hezbollah is refocusing its attention on Israel.

"The [Israel Defense Forces] has on hundreds of occasions attacked targets of Iran and Hezbollah", Netanyahu said on Sunday at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting, just two days after the IAF strike.

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