Israel struck Iranian facility in Syria, PM Netanyahu says

14 January, 2019, 08:38 | Author: Wade Massey
  • IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya

Israeli troops have found the sixth and final tunnel dug by Hezbollah militants for cross-border attacks, the military said.

The statements marked a rare, public acknowledgment of Israeli attacks against Hezbollah and its patron Iran in neighboring Syria, where Israel is long believed to have targeted Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese Shiite group.

"According to our assessments, there are no longer any tunnels crossing into Israel", military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. While they have at times traded blows within Syria - where Hezbollah has been helping Damascus beat back rebels - the Israel-Lebanon border has mostly been quiet.

The latest tunnel began in the Lebanese village of Ramyeh, some 800 metres (yards) away from Israel, the army said.

The Army said, "In the coming days we'll investigate the new tunnel and carry out actions to neutralize it".

On Christmas Day the Israeli jets used two civilian aircraft in flight as cover to engage targets in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, noting that the IDF's F-16s flew in as civilian jets were landing at Beirut and Damascus airports. Conricus said the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as UNIFIL, was updated on the latest development.

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Citing intelligence assessments, Israel says the tunnels were prepared in secret, over a period of years, as part of a Hezbollah plan to send as many as 1,500 fighters in a shock assault on its northern communities and military bases during any future war. "We yet have much work to do and we will do it", Netanyahu said.

Israel alleges Hezbollah 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.

Israel has until now generally refrained from commenting about the strikes for fear of triggering a reaction and being drawn into the deadly fighting in neighbouring Syria's civil war.

Netanyahu also cited "the successful completion" of an Israeli search-and-dismantle mission against suspected Hezbollah attack tunnels from Lebanon that was launched in December. Israel's outgoing military chief, Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot, did so over the weekend in various interviews.

Lebanese officials however held talks on Sunday with US Under Secretary of State David Hale that included discussion of the border area, statements from both sides said.

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