Shortly after the discovery of a 3rd terror tunnel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, went to IDF Northern Command headquarters located near the Israel- Lebanon border to receive firsthand a security briefing on progress in Operation Northern Shield.
Following the briefings, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with commanders and soldiers in the field.
“We have just exposed a third tunnel. We are systematically dismantling the tunnels weapon”.
Hezbollah thought that it could dig unhindered. We knew, we planned, and it did not leak. We maintained secrecy; we planned carefully. We are carrying out exactly what we planned but we are ready for the unexpected. There is great firepower here. We are ready for it and are prepared for it from all sides,” Netanyahu said.
This comes a few days after former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted in an interview that the country’s officials had been hiding knowledge of the existence of Hezbollah’s underground tunnels for years.
“We did it to mislead the other side. My comments two years ago that there are no tunnels in the north was a lie in order to preserve the security of the state. I didn’t want Hezbollah to know that we knew”, he told Army Radio.
During his tenure as Israel’s defense minister, Ya’alon was asked at least twice, in 2015 and 2016, about the Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels, entering Israeli territory from Lebanon, and in both cases he denied their existence.
Over the past few years, IDF has also been asked about the underground threat, and they either refused to comment, or denied that the army knew anything.
In January 2015, Ya’alon flatly rejected the complaint from northern residents that they’d heard tunneling and reassured a group of high school students in the city of Kiryat Shmona that the sounds were just “horses in a stable next door”.
A year later, Ya’alon told students preparing to enlist in the army that “in the north, we haven’t discovered a single tunnel” and that:
“Hezbollah doesn’t even have a good reason to even dig tunnels in the north” because the Lebanese movement could potentially find other ways to infiltrate Israel.
In the Army Radio interview, Ya’alon acknowledged that he had lied to “calm” residents of the north, at the same time claiming that most of the claims from residents were incorrect at the time.
“We took it seriously. We looked and we didn’t find anything. Even today, I will continue to calm down northern residents. None of the tunnels reach any of the communities where people said they’d heard tunneling, nor to any home”, he said.