Wed, 12 Dec 2018
19
Beirut

JERUSALEM - Israel has launched an operation on its northern border to destroy a series of Hezbollah-built tunnels from Lebanon into Israel. The move could spark tensions between Israel and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militant group.

The Israeli army said it had uncovered the first of what it expects to be many cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel.

Army spokesman Ronen Manalis said the 200-meter tunnel started under a house in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila and extended about 40 meters into Israel.

He said Israel will find the tunnels and neutralize them, and that the operation will expand all along its border. Israeli officials said they are only operating on their side of the border.

Israel sent reinforcements to the border and said they were prepared for any scenario.

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is believed to have an estimated 120,000 rockets that can reach all parts of Israel.

A Lebanese army source said the situation was calm on Lebanon's side of the border.

The operation comes a day after the Israeli police recommended that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, be indicted on corruption charges. Israeli officials said the timing was coincidental and the operation had been planned for a long time.

Support also came from the opposition, including Omer Bar Lev, a Knesset member from the Zionist Union, and former commander of an elite army unit.

This is a defensive operation inside Israel, Bar Lev said, adding it is worthwhile and important.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said the U.S. 'strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty.' He said the U.S. calls on Hezbollah to 'stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence.'

Netanyahu said that anyone who attacks Israel will pay a heavy price. He met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Monday.

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