Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of “unimaginable” response if it tried to interfere with the Israeli military’s efforts to uncover and destroy what it says is a network of cross-border tunnels snaking into the country from Lebanon, Times of Israel reported.
According to the report Netanyahu made the threat while touring the northern border, where Israeli troops have been working since last week to find the attack tunnels and render them unusable.
“If Hezbollah makes the mistake, and decides, in any way, to attack us or to oppose our operation, they will be hit with unimaginable blows,” Netanyahu vowed, as the army said it uncovered a third Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel that penetrated Israeli territory from southern Lebanon.
The army said it had drilled into the passage and planted explosives inside it to ensure it cannot be used.
Netanyahu said the army had secretly tracked the tunnel-digging project before launching Operation Northern Shield, deflecting criticism that the military had allowed the terror group to build up attack infrastructure under the border.
“They thought they were undetected, but we knew and we planned,” Netanyahu said. “We kept it secret and it did not leak. We have planned this with great attention to detail and we are carrying out exactly what we planned.”
The army has also said it is aware of the existence of other tunnels, but has yet to fully expose them.
The operation has raised tensions of a possible fresh conflict on the volatile border, which has seen two wars in recent decades, though Lebanon has downplayed chances of war so long as Israeli troops do not cross the border. UN peacekeepers have also stepped up patrols to ensure the frontier remains calm.
Netanyahu said Israel was “completely prepared” for any challenges.
Netanyahu said the operation was ahead of schedule and would continue until “we totally nullify the Hezbollah tunnel threat.”
“Imagine what would happen if we did not do this, imagine that on one gray foggy day Hezbollah would spring out of these tunnels and kidnap our people,” said Netanyahu, who is also now defense minister.
Later, speaking to the leaders of communities along the border, Netanyahu said the operation was part of a wider effort to counter the threats posed by Hezbollah, which also included their precision guided missiles and the tens of thousands of more-basic rockets.
Netanyahu said Israel’s efforts to counter Iranian and Hezbollah efforts to upgrade the rockets to precision missiles had been met with “impressive success.”
Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes on Iranian and Hezbollah bases and convoys in Syria to stop the transfer of these weapons and warned Lebanon that Iran is trying to set up factories in the country.