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Israel says all Hizballah cross-border tunnels found, to end 'Northern Shield' operation Open in fullscreen

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Israel says all Hizballah cross-border tunnels found, to end 'Northern Shield' operation

Israel alleges Hizballah planned to use tunnels to kidnap or kill its soldiers [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 January, 2019

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"We have found yet another Hizballah cross-border attack tunnel from Lebanon to Israel," Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters of the operation that began on December 4.

Israel has uncovered all cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hizballah from Lebanon and now plans to bring its operation to find and destroy them to an end, a military spokesman said on Sunday.

"We have found yet another Hizballah cross-border attack tunnel from Lebanon to Israel," Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters of the operation that began on December 4.

"According to our intelligence and our assessment of the situation there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon into Israel."

The latest tunnel, found on Saturday, began in the Lebanese village of Ramyeh, some 800 metres away from Israel, the army said.

It reached a few dozen metres into Israel, and at 55 metres under the ground was the deepest as well as "the longest and most detailed" of all the tunnels the army exposed, Conricus said.

The latest tunnel was the sixth revealed to the public and the army said its discovery marked the end of the operation dubbed by the army "Northern Shield".

The last tunnel will be destroyed in the coming days.

"We have achieved the goal (to expose and destroy the tunnels from Lebanon) which we set out to achieve at the beginning," Conricus said.

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

He also reiterated that Israel holds the Lebanese government accountable "for any act of violence or violation of 1701," the UN resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah.

UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, was informed of the latest tunnel, Conricus said.

Israel alleges Hizballah 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. It has said, however, that they were not yet operational.

However, Arab nations such as Kuwait have accused Israel of overinflating the threat from the tunnels.

They said Israeli violations of Beirut's sovereignty pose more of a threat than Hizballah's cross-border tunnels.

"Realistically, this incident is not really a threat to peace in the region," Kuwaiti ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi told the UN Security Council last month.

"Lebanon has been living for years with Israeli violations. Israel has tried to exaggerate this incident militarily, and in the media."

A month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hizballah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

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

Israel says all operations have taken place within its territory.

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