Research

Alert and Background: Operation Northern Shield

- December 04, 2018

ALERT AND BACKGROUND: OPERATION NORTHERN SHIELD
December 4, 2018

Early Tuesday, the IDF announced the launch of Operation Northern Shield to “expose and thwart cross-border tunnels” built from Lebanon into Israeli territory by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite terror organization financed and armed by Iran.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said, “The US strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hizbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence. More broadly, we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose and unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional stability.”

Key points:

  1. The Hezbollah tunnels are highly sophisticated and are designed specifically to allow elite Hezbollah fighters to infiltrate Israel and attack civilian targets.
  2. The tunnels are a gross violation of Israeli sovereignty and blatant proof of the violation of UN Resolution 1701.
  3. Operation Northern Shield is purely defensive and is taking place entirely on Israeli territory.
  4. Iranian-controlled Hezbollah is in complete political and military control of Lebanon.   

Operation Northern Shield:

  • Operation Northern Shield is designed to neutralize a number of Hezbollah attack tunnels that penetrate Israeli territory and threaten Israeli civilians. 
  • The operation is taking place entirely inside Israel and is not intended to encroach into Lebanese territory.

The Tunnel Structure:

  • The Hezbollah tunnels are central to the Iranian proxy’s wider preparations for attacking Israel.
    • One tunnel, originating under a home in the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kela, is 600 feet long and extends 180 feet into Israel, measuring 6x6 feet and took two years to build.
    • Unlike the Hamas tunnels from Gaza, the Hezbollah tunnels are larger and more sophisticated.
    • The Hezbollah tunnels are reportedly based on a North Korean model and reflect technical assistance from Hamas. They are large enough to permit access by large numbers of fighters.

Political Context:

  • Hezbollah has complete control over the Lebanese state, including the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), political institutions and intelligence agencies.
  • The mandate of the Lebanese government is to defend Hezbollah and to represent the interests of its patrons in Iran.
  • Because of Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon, and its tactic of using human shields, the next war between Israel, Hezbollah and Lebanon could lead to mass civilian casualties.
    • The IDF's chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Hezbollah has a presence in "every third or fourth house" and was ensconced in some 240 villages and towns in southern Lebanon.
    • Hezbollah is now believed by Israel to possess about 150,000 rockets - ten times larger than its arsenal before the 2006 war.
    • Hezbollah has threatened to attack Israeli strategic military and civilian sites, including the country’s nuclear reactor in Dimona and ammonium tanks in Haifa.

Key Statements (Dec. 4th):

  • Israeli Foreign Ministry: “The operation is purely defensive. It is within the borders of the State of Israel and it is meant to protect Israel and its population.” (Spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon).
  • Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, IDF spokesman: “We see Hezbollah's activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty. This activity is another example of the negative effects of Iranian entrenchment in the region."
  • UNIFIL, the UN’s peacekeeping force in Lebanon: “UNIFIL is liaising with all relevant interlocutors to ensure that the parties use the UNIFIL liaison and coordination mechanisms to maintain the continued calm and stability. The situation in UNIFIL's area of operation remains calm."
  • Hezbollah: “Hezbollah is alert and prepared constantly. We are following the enemy’s actions, on all fronts.” 

Resources: 

NOTE: Partners are encouraged to use these resources in their own communications, with or without attribution to TIP.


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