In the early morning of Dec. 4, Israel launched a defensive operation called Operation Northern Shield to find and destroy Hezbollah’s attack tunnels that crossed from southern Lebanon into Israel. The tunnels—dug by the Iranian-backed, Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah—are designed to attack and kidnap Israelis, and originated from civilian areas in Lebanon, illustrating the terrorist group’s use of human shields.
Since Israel’s announcement of the operation, the United States has stood by Israel’s right to defend itself from this threat. “The U.S. strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence,” U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said in a statement on Tuesday.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that “these tunnels are dug by Lebanese Hezbollah and it would be irresponsible if Israel did not undertake this operation and protection of their own territorial integrity and their own populations. So, this is exactly the right thing to do. They are staying on their own side of the border. There is nothing provocative about it. Obviously, the problem is whoever dug the tunnels and they are engaged in basically solving that problem…So full support for the Israel operation from our view. It’s a necessary operation for the protection of innocent people.”
Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt reiterated this sentiment, stating on Tuesday that “we strongly support Israel’s efforts to defend itself, and we call on Hezbollah to halt all provocative behavior immediately and refrain from escalation and violence.”
State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook also declared on Tuesday that “we condemn this activity [by Hezbollah] and support Israel in its military operations to address these tunnels.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated that “Israel has the absolute right and obligation to dismantle the terror infrastructure that Hezbollah has built in preparation for infiltrating its northern border and attacking its citizens, including the attack tunnels targeted this week by Operation Northern Shield. Hezbollah has built these attack tunnels from inside homes, where they also use Lebanese civilians as human shields for their rockets and missiles, of which there are roughly 150,000 pointed at Israeli civilians.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said that “Hezbollah’s attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory with tunnels is a concerning and sobering reminder than Israel’s security cannot be taken for granted. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) deserve praise for detecting these tunnels along the Israeli-Lebanese border and I support their efforts to destroy them.”
Top Israeli officials said the early stages of Operation Northern Shield have proven successful. The Jewish state revealed that Hezbollah had been working for years to build cross-border attack tunnels as part of an offensive strategy it calls Conquering the Galilee, in which fighters in the terrorist organization’s elite Radwan unit would attempt to infiltrate Israel to attack and capture border communities in future conflict.
Israel is demanding a response from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and the U.N. Security Council, stressing that the Hezbollah attack tunnels are a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty and a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, which call for the disarmament of all nonstate militias and a demilitarized zone in southern Lebanon.
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