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IDF warns Hezbollah, Lebanese army to stay away from border tunnels

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Israel launches military operation against 'Hezbollah tunnels'

The attack tunnels have always been rumored to have been dug from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory by the Iran backed terror group, but Israeli defense officials repeatedly either denied their existence or refused to discuss it.

The military said the tunnels were not yet operational but posed "an imminent threat" to Israeli civilians, and constituted "a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty".

In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified three locations in Lebanon where, he said, Hezbollah was converting "inaccurate projectiles" into precision-guided missiles.

Dubbed Operation Northern Shiled, it was announced by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Twitter, with video footage of heavy machinery boring in unidentified locations.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the situation in its area of operation "remains calm" and it is coordinating with relevant parties to maintain this stability.

Israel, meanwhile, gave no special orders to residents of northern Israel, signaling that it too was not expecting an immediate response from Hezbollah.

According to the IDF, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group also provided Hezbollah with technical assistance, based on its extensive experience digging attack tunnels from the Strip into southern Israel.

Israel has significantly stepped up its defenses along the Lebanese border, out of concern that Hezbollah will emerge more battle-hardened from its costly involvement in the civil war in Syria.

While the construction has prompted complaints from the Lebanese army, Hezbollah has not responded, an indication it could remain restrained amid the new operation.

This picture taken on December 4, 2018 near the northern Israeli town of Metula, shows Israeli soldiers standing outside a military vehicle near the border with Lebanon.

Hezbollah, which possesses one of the most powerful militias in the region, has threatened to attack Israel with its vast rocket arsenal if war breaks out.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 was meant to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

By September 2018 Israel completed 11 kilometers of a concrete barrier along its border with Lebanon created to protect Israeli communities from Hezbollah infiltrations.

Hezbollah meanwhile has also been distracted by the war in Syria, where it has fought fiercely alongside President Bashar Assad's troops.

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