Israeli troops discovered the sixth and final tunnel dug by Hezbollah militants for cross-border attacks, the military announced Sunday, saying it was wrapping up its operation along the Lebanese border.
The final tunnel was the largest one discovered so far, running hundreds of meters (yards) from under a Lebanese home and deep into Israeli territory, military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
Israel launched the “Operation Northern Shield” early last month to detect and destroy what it called a vast network of Hezbollah tunnels aimed for militants to sneak across the border and carry out attacks.
Conricus said the latest tunnel originated from the Lebanese border town of Ramyeh.
Tunnel with rail system
It was 55 meters deep and ran 800 meters inside Lebanese territory and also dozens of meters into Israel, he said. It included stairs, a rail system and a wide a passageway that allowed for the movement of equipment and a large number of forces.
The tunnel would be destroyed in the coming days, Conricus said, adding that while more tunnels exist on the Lebanese side of the border, this effectively marked the end of the ambitious military operation.
“We have achieved the goal that we set out to achieve a month and a half ago,” he said. “According to our intelligence, there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels into Israel.”
Israel and the United Nations say the tunnels violate a cease-fire resolution that ended a devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Conricus says the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as UNIFIL, had been updated on the latest development.
The powerful Shiite militant Hezbollah, which acts independently in Lebanon, has yet to comment on the Israeli discoveries.
Israel has long called for a crackdown on the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a heavily armed mini-army that is believed to possess an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach nearly all of Israel. In recent years, Hezbollah has been bogged down in fighting in Syria on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. But with that civil war winding down, Israeli security officials fear Hezbollah is refocusing its attention on Israel.
In the wake of its discoveries, Israel has asked the international community to impose tough sanctions on Hezbollah and begin to act against its state-within-a-state operation in Lebanon.
The military said its forces would stay deployed along the border area to monitor for any other possible underground activity, and said it holds the Lebanese government responsible for everything happening in its territory.