Lebanon is experiencing a cautious calm as it monitors developments taking place at its borders with Israel after the latter announced the Northern Shield military operation aimed at destroying Hezbollah attack tunnels dug across Israeli-Lebanese borders.
The Israeli military on Tuesday December 4th announced the launch of the operation, saying it aims to “nip in the bud” the threat posed by underground tunnels reaching into its territory.
Israel accused Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia of digging across the frontier,
saying that although the tunnels are not yet functioning, they posed “an imminent threat.”
Major General Stefano Del Col, head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on Wednesday December 5th chaired a regular Tripartite meeting with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli army at the UN headquarters in Naqoura. The meeting discussed activities conducted by the Israeli army near the Blue Line, a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel published by the UN in 2000.
Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Israel provided no evidence of cross-border attack tunnels at the meeting with UN peacekeepers.
“The Israelis did not present any information,” at the meeting with the Lebanese army and the UNIFIL peacekeeping force, Reuters cited a statement from Berri’s office as saying. Berri, a political ally of Hezbollah, said Lebanon had asked for geographic coordinates but received none.
Lebanon’s foreign ministry will submit a complaint to the UN about “repeated Israeli violations,” state news agency NNA said.
The Israeli army has released footage of the tunnels although they have not been independently verified.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late on Tuesday the Israeli military operation would continue for as long as necessary.
The Lebanese army, for its part, said it was “fully prepared to face any emergency” and that its side of the border remained calm on Tuesday. On Wednesday Israeli forces pressed on with the operation.
Israel and Hezbollah have avoided major conflict across the border since their last war in 2006, though Israel has mounted attacks in Syria targeting the heavily armed Iran-backed militia.