JERUSALEM — Israel announced on Tuesday that it had begun a military operation to expose and thwart offensive tunnels it said Hezbollah had been building across the Lebanese border.
The effort, called Operation Northern Shield, was aimed at an unspecified number of tunnels in the area of Metula, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.
None of the tunnels were ready to be used, he said, and the army was neither asking civilians in the area to evacuate nor calling up reserves, though it declared an area around Metula, in the northernmost reaches of the Galilee panhandle, a closed military zone.
Israel has been building defensive obstacles along a roughly seven-mile stretch of its border with Lebanon since 2015, constructing fences, clearing vegetation and creating steep cliffs to deter invading forces. Those efforts are aimed at defeating what Colonel Conricus said was Hezbollah’s goal of assuring that the next battlefield between Israel and Lebanon would be inside Israeli territory.
In an early morning call with reporters, Colonel Conricus provided few details, divulging neither the number and extent of the tunnels Israel had discovered nor how it planned to destroy them. He said more information would become available later Tuesday.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Brussels with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss curbing Iranian aggression in the region, amid reports that Tehran has been flying advanced weaponry directly to Hezbollah in Beirut, bypassing overland shipment routes through Syria that Israel has repeatedly bombed.