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Middle East

UN boosts peacekeeping on Lebanon border as Israel targets ‘attack tunnels’

  • Israeli bulldozers and drills were seen churning up earth near the border wall in what Tel Aviv is calling ‘Operation Northern Shield’
  • The Shiite group made extensive use of a network of tunnels in 2006 during a month-long Israel-Hezbollah war
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 10:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 11:41pm

UN peacekeepers said they increased patrols on the Lebanese-Israeli border on Tuesday after Israel announced an operation against what it said were Hezbollah infiltration tunnels.

The Israeli army said it launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy “attack tunnels” it accused the Lebanese militia of digging under the border.

Hezbollah had not reacted and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) said it had increased patrols along the border, as Israeli bulldozers went to work.

“The overall situation in Unifil’s area of operation remains calm,” said Joumana Sayegh, a spokeswoman for the UN mission which monitors the border region. “Unifil is working with all interlocutors in order to maintain the overall stability.”

Referring to the UN-established ceasefire line, Sayegh said: “Unifil peacekeepers have further increased their patrolling along the Blue Line, together with the Lebanese Armed Forces.”

Lebanon’s army also said it was monitoring the situation closely.

“Army units deployed in the area are carrying out their usual missions along the border in cooperation and coordination with Unifil,” it said.

Hezbollah gained its moniker as “the Resistance” among its supporters by fighting Israeli troops, who occupied southern Lebanon until 2000.

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In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating month-long war during which the Shiite group made extensive use of a network of tunnels to counter Israeli troops.

Israel appears concerned that Iran is trying to transfer some of its military influence from Syria, where Russia is the government’s top ally, to Lebanon.

Near the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, at least one Israeli bulldozer was seen churning up earth on Tuesday, apparently as part of Operation Northern Shield.

The Israeli military said it located a tunnel dug from a home in the Kafr Kela area that crossed into its territory and was working to “neutralise” it.

The White House on Tuesday gave full backing to Israel’s plan.

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President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said “the US strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty”.

“More broadly, we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security,” Bolton said.