Hezbollah releases new tunnel operation footage
After IDF launches Operation Northern Shield near Metula, Hezbollah releases footage of the Israeli army operating near moshav Zar'it; meanwhile, a Lebanese television station airs footage of the 'cement factory' that concealed Hezbollah's tunnel destroyed by IDF, in an attempt to show that it wasn't used for terrorist activity.
Hezbollah released purported footage of IDF engineers taking part in Operation Northern Shield to locate and neutralize infiltration tunnels near southwestern Lebanon, adjacent to moshav Zar'it, on Wednesday. Also, Lebanese media aired footage of the concrete block factory that concealed the Hezbollah tunnel that was destroyed by IDF Tuesday.
According to the terror organization, the footage was taken near the village of Ramyah in the Bint Jbeil District.
Hezbollah noted the exact location of where the photos were taken in an attempt to show that they continue to monitor the events on the other side of the border as Operation Northern shield enters its second day.
At the beginning of the operation, IDF said additional tunnels might exist across the border area—from Rosh HaNikra in the Western Galilee to Metula in the East.
The footage was published by Hezbollah spokesmen, along with the caption "the army of the Israeli enemy began digging next to the barb wire fence opposite Ramyah village in the western part of southern Lebanon."
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry said that "Israel has the right to protect itself as well as preventing illegal entry into its territory."
"We hope that the actions taking place will not violate UN resolution 1701, and expect the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to fulfill its mission," the ministry added.
"We call on both sides to show restraint and responsibility, avoiding provocative actions and statements, which would escalate tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border," it concluded.
The IDF estimates that the critical mass of the tunnels revealed by the IDF on Tuesday will be exposed to the public in the upcoming weeks. However, the neutralization of the tunnels will last several weeks, during which the state of alert in the north is expected to remain high.
The army is preparing for two scenarios that might lead to a violent retaliation by the Shi’ite terrorist group: an explosion or deliberate collapse of the tunnels which might harm Hezbollah members, or spillage of the IDF's operation into, or underneath, Lebanese territory.
Moreover, the stormy weather expected over the weekend could affect the ground, to the benefit or detriment of either side.
It appears Hezbollah has only dug a few tunnels that cross into Israel. Nevertheless, additional tunnels might be discovered in the future.
On Tuesday, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, released camera footage of a Hezbollah tunnel near Metula.
The video captured two Hezbollah terrorists approaching the hidden IDF camera and running away from it, as a device, which was attached to it, explodes.
The footage shows the tunnel at its very last moment, before being completely destroyed. The 200-meter tunnel, which was dug near Metula, seems to have been operational.
"Minutes after Operation Northern Shield was launched, we inserted a camera 25 meter deep into the tunnel, which captured Hezbollah members approaching it, and then trying to escape the tunnel as a small explosive device, which was attached to the camera, exploded," IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said.
IDF spokesperson revealed additional information about the tunnel. "The tunnel was dug underneath a civilian building that served as a civilian concrete block factory until 2014, only a few meters from UNIFIL's post and patrols," he said
On Wednesday Aljadeed TV, a Lebanese television station, aired footage of the "cement factory" in order to show that no terrorist activity has taken place there.
In 2009, civilian work appears to have occurred at the plant, work which was suspended in October 2014, two months after the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge.
“We monitored this structure in 2014 and saw that civilian activity in the plant began declining while military activity increased,” Manelis explained. “We started to see unusual activity under the guise of a civilian activity: we saw vehicles and trucks transporting dirt from the plant to a nearby area in Kafr Kela. In fact, they were clearing the dirt from the tunnel construction. Hezbollah tried to hide this from us, from Lebanon civilians, and from UNIFIL.”
In October 2015, a military generator was spotted in the area, and a month later a guard post was placed there.
The tunnel was most likely dug over a period of two years. It stretches from a residential structure in the south of Kafr Kela in Lebanon and reaches 40 meters (130 feet) into Israeli territory. The 200-meters-long (656 feet) tunnel is about two meters tall and two meters wide (6 feet 7 inches) and includes ventilation systems, electricity and piping. It was dug 25 meters (82 feet) underground.
Unlike the tunnels Hamas is digging in Gaza, Hezbollah's tunnel does not require concrete walls as it is supported by the rocky terrain it was dug through.
The total population of Kafr Kela, the village from which the tunnel was dug, is about 15,000. Its altitude is around 700 meters above sea level, and it is very close to the border and the Fatima Gate, also known as the Good Fence Crossing, a former border crossing between Lebanon and Israel.
In the 1980s, many of the villagers served in the South Lebanon Army (SLA), but after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, some villagers fled the area and others joined Hezbollah. In recent years, the village has been considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
During the Second Lebanon War, the villagers received a warning to leave their homes, and most of them fled the area. Later on, fire exchanges between IDF fighters and Hezbollah terrorists commenced and the Israeli Air Force bombed the area. In 2012, to stop drug smugglers who were throwing contraband sacks over the fence, a wall was erected.
Yoav Zitun, Daniel Salami, and Itamar Eichner contributed to this report.