TEL AVIV – Israel, at great cost, believes it has destroyed the complex tunnel network built by Hamas to smuggle arms and other contraband into Gaza and send suicide bombers into the Jewish state, but the possible existence of a similar and perhaps even greater underground system remains a threat to its national security.
The Israeli government is quietly concerned the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization has excavated tunnels that snake under the Jewish state’s northern communities in the Golan Heights.
A Hezbollah tunnel network under Israel could mirror or even dwarf the Hama terrorist tunnels in the county’s south, along the Gaza Strip border.
Such tunnels could enable Hezbollah to carry out previous threats to use commandos to storm northern Israeli communities in an attempt to hold positions within the country.
After Israel’s nearly month-long military campaign in Gaza aimed in large part at destroying Hamas’s tunnels, Israeli officials seem careful to avoid publicly addressing the potential for Hezbollah tunnels.
A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on Hezbollah’s possible tunneling in the north.
The Shiite terrorist organization is known for its vast, sophisticated tunnel networks in Lebanon.
Indeed, Hezbollah taught Hamas its tunnel-warfare tactics and helped supervise the construction of its network.
It therefore must be assumed Hezbollah has at least attempted to tunnel under Israel in the north. The organization may not have drilled any openings into Israeli cities yet, however, fearing discovery or retaliation from Israel.
Northern Israeli residents have for years reported hearing drilling sounds underground. However, the Israeli military has said it has not discovered any tunnels.
Last week, the mayor of Kiryat Shmona, a city near Israel’s border with Lebanon, reportedly asked the IDF to investigate the possibility of Hezbollah tunnels.
Asked by WND for more information on the Hezbollah tunnel threat, an Israeli security source speaking on background said there is fear that after the Gaza conflict, Hezbollah will attempt to convert its defensive tunnels into offensive networks that can snake under Israel.
The source said that while no tunnels were yet discovered under Israeli towns, the working assumption is that Hezbollah will attempt to tunnel there.
The source said Hezbollah is bogged down with the ongoing insurgency targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and that Israel does not believe Hezbollah wants a direct conflict with the Jewish state any time soon.
However, the source added the assumption within the Israeli defense establishment is that Hezbollah has incorporated into its future war plans the potential to raid Israeli cities via tunneling, learning lessons from the most recent Gaza conflict.
Hezbollah’s underground highways
Knowledgeable sources told WND that Lebanon is virtually catacombed with sophisticated tunnels from the northern part of the country into the Bekaa Valley, throughout Beirut and in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah has specialized in tunnel boring to move fighters and supplies in various conflicts with Israel.
Some of the tunnels, especially in mountainous areas, not only are used to store military supplies but to move more sophisticated weaponry undetected from overhead surveillance, the sources said.
Updates were made for the tunnels to host missile launch pads after the 2006 Lebanon War, when Israel took out scores of above-ground Hezbollah missile and rocket launchers.
Throughout the Bekaa Valley, there are tunnels known to hide military equipment from continuous Israeli and U.S. surveillance.
Sources say the Hezbollah tunnels in Lebanon, which are capable of withstanding some aerial bombings, store missiles and rockets and other military hardware to respond to an Israeli attack.
Even under Beirut itself, especially in the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut, military supplies are stored in bunkers and tunnels estimated to be some 40 to 50 feet below the ground. Up above, there are regular businesses masking the existence of the tunnels.
Because Hezbollah controls south Lebanon, sources say the region has been the subject of extensive tunneling, some of which can be bored quickly to allow troops to move secretly into Israel.
At its Museum for Resistance Tourism, for example, Hezbollah has demonstrated its tunneling capability and conducts tours through underground bunkers. A 200-meter tunnel displays complete living and working quarters for fighters, replete with kitchens, electrical generators and communications equipment.
The war museum, which is operated by Hezbollah near the village of Mleeta in southern Lebanon, is the site of a former Hezbollah base utilized to ambush Israeli troops.
Hezbollah has a relationship with North Korea’s communist dictatorship, which is known to have constructed tunnels that snake underneath the demilitarized zone with South Korea.
The northern Israeli landscape, with its rocky hills and mountains, is geographically different than beachfront Gaza. However, numerous geologists told Israeli media outlets in recent years that Hezbollah has the capability to tunnel under the Israeli north.
Just last week, geologist Col. Yossi Langotsky, a former adviser on terror tunnels, explained to Israel National News that the ground in Israel’s northern Galilee is easier to dig than in the Koreas.
“For nine years I raised hell, and said [terrorists are] digging tunnels into Israeli territory, and the state security system is not organized with enough seriousness required to deal with the intensity of the threat,” Langotsky said.