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Lebanese View Israel’s Operation Targeting Hizbullah Tunnels As A Ploy
Lebanese supporters of Shiite Hizbullah movement. (Mahmoud Zayat/AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese View Israel’s Operation Targeting Hizbullah Tunnels As A Ploy

Beirut believes the Israeli government is fabricating excuses to deflect attention away from its own failings

After the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Northern Shield ostensibly to destroy cross-border tunnels built by Hizbullah, the Lebanese military announced that while the frontier remains calm its forces are fully prepared for any potential emergency.

The statement added that “army units deployed in the area are carrying out their usual missions in cooperation and coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to prevent any escalation or destabilization.”

The military also confirmed that the IDF’s operation thus far has been conducted exclusively within Israeli territory.

“Nobody can confirm or deny whether the tunnels exist as the pictures that were published are not valid proof and could have been taken anywhere,” Hisham Jaber, a former general in the Lebanese Armed Forces, contended to The Media Line. Instead, he believes the Israeli government is attempting to demonstrate to the population that it remains “capable” following the several unsuccessful military missions and the recent resignation of defense minister Avigdor Liberman.

“The Israelis failed [to defeat Hamas] in the Gaza Strip and had to stop [striking Iranian targets] in Syria following Moscow’s orders. So the current operation is theater, a ‘military advertisement’ that oddly was announced before it even started.”

According to Jaber, Hizbullah currently has no interest in carrying out missions in Israel. On the flip side, he cautioned, “if Israeli troops move into Lebanon, there will be huge consequences as the Lebanese army must serve its duties properly.”

The Israeli mission comes after numerous warning by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Hizbullah is constructing—at the behest of its patron Iran—underground factories in Lebanon in order to produce advanced missiles with ranges that span the entirety of Israel. This has raised speculation that the current IDF effort is a first step towards a possible greater confrontation with Hizbullah, which is believed to have an arsenal of approximately 120,000 projectiles.

For now, Operation Northern Shield is expected to take weeks to complete and on Tuesday afternoon the IDF claimed it uncovered the “first of what are sure to be many” tunnels. The subterranean structure—which local media reported is one of at least ten in existence—was allegedly identified near the Israeli town of Metullah and is 200 meters (650 feet) long.

When asked about this development, a Hizbullah spokesperson declined to comment on the matter to The Media Line.

Imad al-Hout, a Lebanese parliamentarian stressed that Beirut is used to the “Zionist entity” conjuring up justifications to validate its military operations. “It’s not a matter of a security threat but, rather, is an internal Israeli issue,” he affirmed, adding that the “occupation” government is attempting to deflect attention away from the corruption cases against Netanyahu.

Al-Hout made clear that despite ongoing political turmoil in Beirut, all Lebanese factions are united in the face of the Israeli “enemy.”

Meanwhile, Israel also has launched a diplomatic offensive, announcing that it will lobby the United Nations Security Council to condemn Hizbullah’s militarization of southern Lebanon.

“It is clear that Hizbullah aggressively violated Resolution 1701,” Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said in reference to the legally binding resolution that set the terms for ending the 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite group.

The text called for Hizbullah’s total disarmament and the creation of an arms-free buffer zone along the frontier, conditions that evidently have not been met.

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