2nd LD Writethru: Israeli army announces operation against border tunnels allegedly by Hezbollah

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JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced Tuesday they would launch "operation northern shield" on Israel's northern border after finding several cross-border tunnels allegedly constructed by Hezbollah militants.

Head of the international media branch at the IDF's spokesperson's unit Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters during a phone briefing that this is "the first stage of the operation," in which the aim is "to expose and thwart cross border attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah."

Conricus said Israeli forces up north have been put on "heightened alert" but no reserve forces have been called up, and the area around the northern Israeli city of Metula, which is next to the Lebanese border, has been declared a closed military zone.

A statement later released by the Israeli military said that the army's northern command was leading the operation together with the military intelligence directorate. Engineering corps were also involved in the operation, which is currently being conducted within Israel's borders.

"The IDF holds Lebanon responsible for all actions perpetrated inside Lebanon," said Conricus.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006. Since then, there has been tension along the border with isolated violent incidents. Israel has reportedly conducted hundreds of airstrikes against arms shipments for Hezbollah in the past two years.

The Israeli announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels, according to a statement by Netanyahu's office, which said the unplanned meeting discussed "regional developments."

Israeli media have reported that intelligence officials are concerned with Hezbollah's improved missile capabilities, which include not only a large arsenal of rockets, but also enhanced precision. Enditem

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