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Iran-North Korea Connection: Hezbollah Built Vast Underground Tunnel Network in Lebanon to Move Weapons, Combatants

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

The inside of a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, is seen during a media tour organized by the Israeli military near Zar’it in northern Israel June 3, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

Hezbollah has built inter-regional tunnels stretching across hundreds of kilometers to connect the terror group’s three strategic areas in Lebanon and move large forces in fast convoys underground, according to a recent report published by the Alma research center.

The network of tunnels links the Beirut area, Hezbollah’s central headquarters, with the Bekaa area – the group’s logistical operational base — and Southern Lebanon.

The Alma center, which focuses on security challenges facing Israel on its northern border, warned that the tunnel network exposes a “new strategic challenge” for Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). According to its analysis, the interconnected tunnel network is likely to be part of Hezbollah’s defense plan against a potential Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The IDF launched “Operation Northern Shield” in December 2018 to destroy Hezbollah terror tunnels, and concluded that there were no longer any cross-border tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.

According to the “Land of the Tunnels” report, Hezbollah started the project following the Second Lebanon War in 2006 with the help of advisors from Iran and North Korean, who “significantly” assisted in the construction of the network. North Korea has experience in building tunnels for military use since the 1950s.

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“Hezbollah’s model is the same as the North Korean model: tunnels in which hundreds of combatants, fully equipped, can pass stealthily and rapidly underground,” Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri wrote in the report.

Specifically, Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) — a North Korean state-owned company specializing in the development of underground infrastructures — was involved in helping with the construction of the project. According to Alma research, KOMID signed a $13 million deal with Hezbollah for the supply of engineering materials for excavating tunnels and for the transfer of North Korean engineering technology.

The actual construction of the tunnels was carried out by Hezbollah’s Jihad Construction Foundation, a branch of the Iranian Jihad Construction, and the project was supervised by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The inter-regional tunnel “project is much larger than the Hamas ‘metro’ [tunnel] project in the Gaza Strip that the IDF exposed in the last operation in the Gaza Strip in May 2021,” Beeri stated. “Hezbollah tunnels, like Hamas tunnels, contain underground command and control rooms, weapons and supply depots, field clinics and specified designated shafts used to fire missiles of all types (rockets, surface-to-surface missiles, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles). These shafts are hidden and camouflaged and cannot be detected above ground.”

The infrastructure tunnels are also used for artillery attacks and to move combatants from one place to another to reinforce defense positions and carry out an attack in a protected and invisible manner. According to Alma, motorcycles, ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and other small vehicles can also be transported through some of the tunnels. One of the tunnels built by the Hezbollah was found to be 28 miles long.

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