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December 4, 2018 9:37 am

US Voices Support for Counter-Tunnel Op Launched by Israel on Lebanon Border

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

IDF soldiers patrol the Israel-Lebanon border, near Metula, Dec. 4, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Karamallah Daher.

The Trump administration voiced its backing on Tuesday for an operation the IDF has launched to destroy tunnels built by Hezbollah under the Israel-Lebanon border.

“The US strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence,” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

“More broadly,” he added, “we call on Iran and all of its agents to stop their regional aggression and provocation, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.”

Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, expressed gratitude to the US, saying, “Israel deeply appreciates the Trump administration’s unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself — against Hezbollah tunnels, Hamas rockets, Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, and all the other things that threaten the Jewish state.”

The IDF announced “Operation Northern Shield” in a Tuesday morning tweet, saying its goal was to “expose and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later on Tuesday, “We are proud of the fighters and commanders of the IDF for the complex actions and operational successes already in the early stages of the operation.”

“Whoever tries to attack the State of Israel will pay a heavy price,” Netanyahu emphasized.

“We are taking determined and responsible action in all sectors simultaneously,” he concluded. “We will continue with additional actions — open and covert — in order to ensure the security of Israel.”

Netanyahu briefed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the operation during a Monday meeting in Brussels.

According to Netanyahu’s office, the prime minister told Pompeo the Hezbollah tunnels were a “gross violation of Israeli sovereignty and of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”

At the start of the sit-down, Netanyahu said he and the secretary of state would discuss “how we can together curb Iran’s aggression in the region, in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon and elsewhere, and to continue our efforts to achieve peace and security for everyone.”

Israel and Hezbollah — a Shi’a proxy of the Tehran regime — last engaged in major combat during the 33-day Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

In recent years, the IDF has conducted numerous strikes in Syria to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian weaponry to Hezbollah.

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