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Israel destroys 'longest, most significant' Hizballah tunnel on Lebanon border

An Israeli soldier investigates the entrance to one a tunnel during Operation Northern Shield [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 May, 2019

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The kilometer-long tunnel, equipped with electricity and a railroad, will be sealed off by the Israeli army after its highly publicised discovery in January.
The Israeli military on Wednesday began an operation to seal off what they allege to be the last remaining tunnel built by Lebanon's Hizballah group into Israeli territory.

The underground passage, discovered in January as part of Operation Northern Shield, is the "the longest and most significant" of the six tunnels uncovered during the five-week-long mission, according to a statement from the Israeli military.

Ahead of its destruction, the army have released further details on the passage, claiming the militant group envisaged the passageways to be used to launch surprise attacks during the next war between Israel and Lebanon.

The tunnel, which goes 80 metres deep and measures a kilometre long, was allegedly equipped with electricity, ventilation and communications systems which included a train track for transporting goods and an air conditioning system, the army said.

The advanced infrastructure suggests that the passage was built over many years.

Two hundred metres longer than initially estimated, the tunnel stretches from the village of Ramyeh on the Lebanese side of the border to the Israeli village of Shtula and Zarit.

Following its discovery on January 13, the tunnel has been booby-trapped and kept under constant surveillance by the Israeli military.

Most of the passage is in the process of being sealed off, however a small section will be kept open to allow visitors to see the inside.

Israel alleges Hizballah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill its civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities. It has said, however, that they were not yet operational.

The army on Wednesday released a video about the tunnel's discovery, claiming it had been "built to kill Israeli families". 

However, Arab nations such as Kuwait have accused Israel of overinflating the threat from the tunnels.

They said Israeli violations of Beirut's sovereignty pose more of a threat than Hizballah's cross-border tunnels.

"Realistically, this incident is not really a threat to peace in the region," Kuwaiti ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi told the UN Security Council in December.

"Lebanon has been living for years with Israeli violations. Israel has tried to exaggerate this incident militarily, and in the media."

A month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hizballah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

The highly publicised Israeli operation to expose and destroy the tunnels has gone ahead without drawing a military response from Hizballah.

Israel says all operations have taken place within its territory.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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