Lebanon’s security chief says tunnels into Israel are years-old
He claims Israel has leveraged the publicity around its tunnel campaign to achieve an illusory victory
Cross-border tunnels which Israel claims have been dug by Hezbollah beneath the shared frontier are “years-old,” Lebanon’s General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said in comments published on Monday.
Mr Ibrahim told a monthly magazine released by his powerful security agency that Israel only recently publicised the discovery of the underground passageways “in an attempt to achieve an illusory victory.”
Israel has announced the discovery of five tunnels from different locations in Lebanon since an open-ended operation to destroy the entire network began on December 4.
UN peacekeepers stationed along the shared frontier have confirmed the existence of most of the passageways but did not verify whether or not they were in fact dug by Hezbollah.
Mr Ibrahim on Monday did not name the group responsible for the tunnels.
Israel says Hezbollah planned to use the tunnels as part of an attack in a future conflict against it and calls them a violation of the UN resolution that ended the 2006 war between them.
Mr Ibrahim said that Lebanon was ready to deal with the tunnel threat but claimed that Israeli authorities have yet to provide the government in Beirut with their specific coordinates.
Israel’s campaign to neutralise the tunnels sparked tension in border areas last month but the General Security chief said that a new conflict between the two states is “unlikely.”
“We don’t want [a war], but we are ready for one,” Mr Ibrahim said. “Israel wants one [a war], but is not ready for it and does not have the capacity to launch one,” he added, without providing more details.
Mr Ibrahim is widely considered in Lebanon as a pro-Hezbollah figure.
Israel's army last month estimated that only a few weeks remain in its operation to locate and destroy the passageways.
At least two tunnels have been destroyed.
A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon has expressed serious concern over the discovery and urged Lebanese officials to called on Lebanese authorities to ensure follow-up actions to resolve the issue.
Hezbollah has not officially responded to Israel’s discovery but the group’s deputy leader Naim Qassem said last month that Hezbollah rockets could strike any position in Israel. The threat came only days after Israel announced its operation.
Tunnel tactics are not new to Hezbollah. The party has used such systems to store weapons and protect personnel since the mid-1990s when it was fighting against Israel’s invasion of south Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s so-called Resistance Museum, about 35km from Israel in the southern town of Mleeta, includes an original 200m tunnel and bunker system with sleeping areas and prayer rooms used by Hezbollah fighters at the time. Dug during Hezbollah’s years' long insurgency against Israeli occupation of south Lebanon that ended with Tel Aviv retreating in 2000. The tunnel was undiscovered for years and was used again during the 2006 war.
Updated: January 7, 2019 07:09 PM