JERUSALEM—Even before it finished defusing the tunnel threat from the Gaza Strip Monday with the detonation of the last of 31 Hamas attack tunnels, the Israeli army began shifting its attention to the possibility of a similar threat from Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon.
Residents of communities on the northern border have periodically reported hearing the sound of underground digging over the years but despite probes by army engineers, no signs of tunneling into Israeli territory have ever been found.
However, the extent and sophistication of the Hamas tunnels from Gaza, 10 of which extended under the border fence to within a few hundred yards of Israeli kibbuzim and villages, has renewed concern about the Lebanese border. Last week, the mayor of Kiryat Shmona, the largest town on the border, sent an urgent appeal to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to investigate the matter thoroughly.
In its 2006 war with Hezbollah, the Israeli army discovered that the Shiite militia had built an extensive underground network from which its fighters emerged to meet the Israeli forces and into which they escaped when necessary.
Dr. Eado Hecht, an Israeli defense analyst, termed the existence of Hezbollah cross-border tunnels "not impossible," telling the Times of Israel that there were strong indications of ties between Hezbollah and the North Korean army.
"The Americans and South Koreans have already found four such tunnels on the border between North and South Korea and they estimate that 20 more exist," Hecht said.
A video on You Tube shows one such tunnel, a well-built facility said to extend more than a mile into South Korea.
Hezbollah’s website, al-Manar, cited "security sources" in June stating that Hezbollah had prepared hundreds of tunnels in southern Lebanon to enable its fighters to move safely.
"The most dangerous of these tunnels," said the article, "are those designated for infiltration." It said that Israel used huge engineering vehicles to induce tremors that collapse some of these tunnels. "However, there remain a number of tunnels which the Israeli army has not yet succeeded in disabling."
The fact that none have been found inside Israel, say observers, could mean that the tunnels have been dug up to, but not yet across, the border.
The Defense Ministry has recently asked Tel Aviv University geologists to help track possible tunnel activity along the border, reported Israel’s Channel 2.