A senior IDF Northern Command officer told Ynet that Hizbullah has set up an extensive underground bunker network not far from the Israeli border.
On Wednesdaytwo IDF soldiers from the Magellan unit were killed and nine more soldiers were wounded during army operations aimed at uncovering the bunkers.
Hizbullah terrorists were hiding out in the fortified underground bunkers some 40 meters (roughly 120 feet) underground, along with mass weapons caches, the officer said. “Despite the results of the event, we’ll continue with this operation,” the officer stated. “There are missions that the Air Force cannot carry out and they need to be completed by other means.”
Vice Premier Shimon Peres also mentioned the issue of the bunker network during a recent meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. “Hizbullah dug tunnels under extensive areas of south Lebanon and rigged the area with a half ton of explosives,” Peres said.
The IDF defined the operation in the area as “shaping the border.” Wednesday’s operation, which ended in two fatalities, revealed the challenges the army would have to face to reach this goal. The destruction of Hizbullah bases along the border is only one aspect of the activities, and this mission too is steeped in no small danger, as hundreds of kilograms of explosives have been planted in the area.
Sophisticated bunker system
And further underground, as well, it turns out, there is no small amount of activity. Hizbullah has built a sophisticated system of bunkers, constructed of poured concrete, some of them equipped with communications systems. The IDF knows if they don’t demolish this bunker system, there will not be quiet along the border after the operation in Lebanon.
The Magellan unit’s mission was precisely to defeat this threat. “There was a short- and mid-range confrontation,” the senior officer explained. “There were a number of exchanges of fire. The medic and paramedic where hit by small-arms fire and were killed. The area is meticulous planned out by the Hizbullah. There were launchers and many gunmen there. That’s where the rocket fire towards Safed, Hula Valley and the area was carried out from. This isn’t a continuous security operation – it’s a war. We have successes, but sometimes things work out less well.”
According to the officer, the IDF would continue various operations on Lebanese territory to bring about a change not only the appearance of change, but real change on every square meter near the border. “There are dozens more bunkers, caves and tunnels. It doesn’t surprise us. We expected it and must overcome it,” he said, adding that the army was determined to complete the mission, including in the area where the two soldiers fell Wednesday.
The IDF called on hundreds of thousands of southern Lebanon residents in dozens of villages and town to evacuate their houses for the north to avoid coming to harm. The IDF intends to extend it attacks deeper into Lebanese territory, up to a couple dozen miles from the Israeli border. The army is aware that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have evacuated, but many more remain in the targeted area.