Powered by IR Society at NYU

IR Insider is a production of NYU's International Relations Society. Our goal is to explain and discuss issues in IR in an engaging and thought-provoking fashion. We are written by students, for students, about issues students care about. 

Israel Targets Tunnels During Military Operations Against Hezbollah

Israel began its military campaign against tunnels along the Lebanese-Israeli border. It is the first time Israel has taken action against these underground passageways, which are suspected to be part of an offensive initiative by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

“Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels’” December 4, 2018. Photo:  Al Jazeera .

“Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels’” December 4, 2018. Photo: Al Jazeera.

The mission, known as Operation Northern Shield, will focus specifically on the area surrounding Metula. Metula is a small town on the border between Israel and Lebanon. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus commented on the operations at the border in which excavators and heavy machinery have already been seen: “This is the first of what are sure to be many cross-border attack tunnels dug from Lebanon by Hezbollah into Israel.”

This military operation came a day after a meeting between Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which the two discussed the importance of curbing Iranian aggression in the Middle East. Accusations have been made that Iran funds and provides weapons to Hezbollah, and more recently Israeli officials have accused Iran of helping Hezbollah build underground factories in Lebanon to upgrade the militant group’s missile arsenal. Additionally, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said he supported the Israeli operation, stating that the “U.S. strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty.”

Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon on Tuesday. December 4, 2018. Photo:  CNN.

Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon on Tuesday. December 4, 2018. Photo: CNN.

However, Israel has been building fences and steep cliffs along the approximate seven-mile shared border with Lebanon since 2015.  Hezbollah has issued no official comment regarding Israel’s assertions that the tunnels constitute a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which formalized the cease-fire that ended a war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Escalation of the conflict is a major risk, especially when considering a previous comment from Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah that there is “no place that is out of reach of the rockets of the resistance or the boots of the resistance fighters.”

There has been criticism about this operation given recent legal scandals confronting Netanyahu. This past Sunday, Israeli police suggested that Netanyahu should be indicted for charges of bribery, fraud, and other accusations involved in a case where he traded regulatory favors for fawning news coverage. This is the third corruption case involving the prime minister this year. Critics have argued that the timing of this operation points to a possible effort by Netanyahu to distract the Israeli public from the corruption case and instead cement his place as a critical actor for Israeli security.