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Israel Warns of ‘Much Stronger Response’ if Hezbollah Tries to Stop Tunnel Destruction

December 12, 2018 Peace and Conflict

PM Netanyahu at IDF Northern Command HQ. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon (Israeli GPO).

Israel is in the midst of taking out multiple tunnels built by Hezbollah that stretch from Lebanon to Israel in an effort to prevent the terror group’s next big attack against Israel. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared to battle Hezbollah now if necessary. “The most important thing is the readiness here—both in spirit and in materiel—for a much stronger response if Hezbollah makes a major mistake and decides to attack us or oppose our action [of destroying the tunnels],” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. “Hezbollah will be dealt unimaginable blows.”

Netanyahu, who was meeting with troops stationed in Israel’s north, was quoted by his office as saying that they had just uncovered a third Hezbollah tunnel and are actually ahead of schedule as they are “systematically dismantling the tunnels weapon.”

Said the Israeli leader, “Hezbollah thought that it could dig unhindered. We knew, we planned, and it did not leak. We maintained secrecy; we planned carefully. We are carrying out exactly what we planned but we are ready for the unexpected. There is great firepower here. We are ready for it and are prepared for it from all sides.”

Netanyahu has previously highlighted the size of the tunnels as indicative that they could have been used in a large-scale attack. On Tuesday, he narrated what that devastating scenario could have looked like. “Think of some foggy day, Hezbollah would emerge from the tunnels and abduct people. Think of what situation the State of Israel could have found itself in with Hezbollah on killing and abduction sprees inside our territory, something that has not happened since 1948,” said Netanyahu. “Imagine what could have happened and understand that this is a great and very important step.”

Netanyahu reiterated his assertion that the Israeli military—in this week’s meeting with the Russians—would make it clear that Israel “maintains its right and obligation” to battle Hezbollah tunnels as well as Iranian forces in Syria.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu himself had an opportunity to present Israel’s case to a foreign power, as Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini visited Israel. Minister Salvini has had the opportunity to see the Hezbollah tunnels, and has another connection to the conflict. Netanyahu, in comments also released by his office, highlighted the Italian minister’s past role as an Italian commander in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.

Said Netanyahu to Salvini, “This is a clear act of aggression of Hezbollah against us and against the norms of the international community… We think UNIFIL has to do a stronger job, tougher job, but ultimately it’s the responsibility of the international community. They should stop Hezbollah from taking these acts of aggression against Israel.”

If they do not, the danger of another conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is very real. And if it happens, Netanyahu said Israel is ready.

Near the end of his comments to the northern Israeli forces on Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his warning to Hezbollah. “I gain the impression here that there is great readiness on the part of our commanders and fighters to meet any scenario,” he said. “If there is escalation, it will be very strong and harsh from Hezbollah’s perspective.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 12, 2018)

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