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Operation Northern Shield

Israel has waged an escalating low intensity conflict against Hezbollah and its sponsor, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This has mainly entailed sporadic air strikes against Hizballah and IRGC targets in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Israel reportedly believed the bases, guarded by Irans Quds Force, are a major part of Tehrans effort to develop a so-called land bridge that would allow the Islamic Republic to easily move weapons and fighters from Iran through Syria and Iraq all the way to Lebanon. The named operation "Operation Northern Shield" is a subset of this larger campaign, which does not seem to have a separate name.

On 19 December 2018 Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon addresses the UN Security Council, describing the scenario Israel sought to forestall. " Suddenly, a force of 250 Hezbollah terrorists from the elite Radwan unit emerge from the end of a cross-border terror tunnel. This tunnel spans from Kfar Kela, Lebanon, directly into Metula, Israel. It was built to enable this large group of Hezbollah terrorists to move swiftly across the border underground. The tunnels are wide enough for Radwan terrorists to march two-by-two into Israel.

"Hezbollahs Radwan forces will use this tunnel to invade Israel and take over Metula. Its terrorists will kill civilians children and the elderly. Then, it will close Road Ninety, the highway connecting Metula with the rest of the Galilee, holding Metula under siege. But now, imagine this tragic scenario multiplied five times over. Imagine Hezbollahs Radwan terrorists using five different tunnels to enter five other towns in Israel Qiriat Shmona, Avivim, Zarit, Adamit, Manara; killing innocent Israeli civilians; kidnapping them and taking over parts of the Galilee.

"Hezbollah calls this strategic and operational plan, Conquering the Galilee. It is a ground attack. But Hezbollah does not stop there. Hezbollah shoots thousands of rockets and missiles into northern Israel. It launches anti-tank missiles that could easily hit a bus full of children. It seizes control of northern Israels major roads and highways. It uses Shiite militias, together with the Radwan forces, to cross the Blue Line into Israel, overcome obstacles Israel has set in their way, and launch terror attacks against Israel by sea....

"Hezbollahs severe violations of Resolution 1701 do not end with its terror tunnel project. Unfortunately, the terror tunnels reflect just a small part of Hezbollahs illegal activities in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah is building military capabilities and infrastructure with the ultimate goal of using them to attack Israel....

"Hezbollah has placed at least three precision missile conversion sites directly beside Beiruts international airport. Hezbollah is building its own precision missile production capabilities. Hezbollah is now holding over 100,000 rockets and missiles across Lebanon.....

"Iran is the lifeblood of Hezbollah ideologically, financially, military, and even culturally. Based on piling evidence and reports, Iran is not only transferring game-changing weapons to Lebanon through the border with Syria. But, in flagrant violation of numerous Security Council resolutions, Iran is now transporting these weapons on commercial planes landing in Beiruts international airport."

The Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Northern Shield on 04 December 2018 to expose and neutralize cross-border attack tunnels that Hezbollah dug from Lebanon into Israel. Just hours into the operation our troops exposed and neutralized a 600 foot Hezbollah attack tunnel, which began under a civilian building in southern Lebanon, was dug through solid rock, and extended into Israeli territory.

The goal was and remains to neutralize and destroy Hezbollahs terror tunnels. The IDF has reported the existence, so far, of four terror tunnels in four separate geographical locations that begin in Lebanon and infiltrate Israel. Israel has informed its partners about this extensive operation and has also provided UNIFIL with full information about the tunnels.

During the 2006 Second Lebanon War the IDF was first exposed to Hezbollahs extensive subterranean infrastructure. At the end of the war UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1701 was passed, forbidding armed groups other than the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL from going south of the Litani River and calling for the disarmament of all armed groups. Despite this, Hezbollah continued to arm itself and vastly develop their underground tunnel network in Southern Lebanon, preparing it for combat.

In 2012 Hezbollah began developing a plan against Israel. While monitoring Hezbollahs planning and preparation, the IDF passed concerns that Hezbollah is digging near the Blue Line. In 2014 the IDF exposed Hamas terror tunnels infiltrating Israel from the Gaza Strip. Knowing that Hamas and Hezbollah often shared knowledge, Israels suspicion of a tunnel threat on the northern border is reinforced. Based on this, the IDF forms a technological intelligence taskforce to focus on the underground threat posed by Hezbollah. In 2015 the IDF expanded its defensive efforts in northern Israel. Advanced technological instruments were deployed in 2016 along the Blue Line with the aim of locating and exposing Hezbollah tunnels.

The attack tunnels from Lebanon constituted a threat to Israeli civilians as well as a violation of Israeli sovereignty, even before they were operational. Additionally, the tunnels served as proof of Hezbollahs blatant violation of Israels sovereignty and UNSC Resolution 1701. These tunnels sent a clear message as to the true priorities of the terrorist organization Hezbollah. In doing this, Hezbollah has also put its goal of Israels destruction before the safety of Lebanese civilians.

A powerful bloc in Iraq's parliament called for the withdrawal of US troops from the country, following a series of air raids targeting Iran-backed Shia militias in the country that werec redited to Israel. The Fatah Coalition said on 26 August 2019 that it held the United States fully responsible for the alleged Israeli aggression, "which we consider to be a declaration of war on Iraq and its people". The coalition is a parliament bloc representing Iran-backed paramilitary militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Anger mounted in Iraq following a spate of mysterious air raids that have targeted military bases and a weapons depot suspected of belonging to Iran-backed militias. It added that US troops are no longer needed in Iraq. The coalition's statement came a day after a drone attack in the western Iraqi town of Qaim killed a commander with the Forces - the latest in attacks apparently conducted by Israel against the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

Israeli also launched a similar attack against Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. Lebanon's president has said an Israeli drone attack on Beirut at the weekend was a "declaration of war" that justified a military response. "What happened is a declaration of war," Michel Aoun told Jan Kubis, the United Nations' special coordinator for Lebanon, in a meeting on 26 August 2019. "This allows us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity," he added.

Israeli drones attacked a Palestinian base in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported. Three attacks which came minutes apart struck a base for a Syrian-backed group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC), an ally of Hezbollah.

Israels attack on Lebanon in late August 2019, both on Hezbollah itself in southern Beirut and also on Palestinian positions in the east of the country, were an important indicator as to the dimension of Israels war against its regional foes. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that Israel "must pay a price" and that "the need for a response is decided". Nasrallah said that Israel had breached the terms of the rules of engagement that had been in effect since the end of the last conflict in 2006. "The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over."

On 01 September 2019 Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire along the Lebanese border after a week of rising tensions. Israel's military said it fired into southern Lebanon on Sunday after a number of anti-tank missiles fired by Hezbollah targeted its army base and vehicles near the border. Hezbollah was responding to an earlier drone attack by Israel. The missiles hit several targets in Israel's border town of Avivim, the Israeli army said, adding it responded by shelling 100 targets inside Lebanon.

An airstrike in eastern Syria killed eight fighters from Iraqs Iran-backed militia Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces), a monitoring group said 20 January 2020. The Lebanese news outlet Al-Mayadeen wrote that the raid was carried out by Israeli aircraft, citing sources in the field. It said the raid targeted a weapons transport. Israel hasnt commented on the reports, rendering it impossible to verify the data. The US-led military coalition operating in Syria and Iraq denied carrying out the strike through a spokesman reached by AFP. Explosions were reported late Thursday at a base near the Iraqi-Syrian border believed to be occupied by Shiite militias, in what was a suspected airstrike. Per DeirEzzor24, a batch of weapons was targeted in the attack while on its way to Lebanese militia group Hezbollah. The shipment reportedly included ballistic missiles belonging to the Imam Ali Brigade, a Shiite militia controlled by the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces.

In a late night strikes on 00 February 2020 more than 20 servicemen were killed during a missile attack that Damascus blamed on Israel. Tel Aviv, which usually refrains from commenting on its military operations abroad, seemingly confirmed that the Israeli military was responsible for the strike. Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said days after the incident: "Foreign media reported this week that 23 Syrians and Iranians were killed there. Those are large numbers and we will do more and more."

Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport Israeli Strike on Damascus Airport

Three Syrian soldiers were killed during a strike which occured on 13 February 2020. The Syrian government blamed the attack on Israel with PM Netanyahu refusing to comment on the incident. Maybe it was the Belgian Air Force, he said during an interview with Radio Haifa. The Israeli satellite analysis firm ImageSat Intl. released images saying they show the alleged aftermath of a recent airstrike on the airport in the Syrian capital Damascus. Pictures released by ImageSat, purportedly show that the strike completely destroyed a building used as headquarters and several warehouses, which were apparently used to store weapons. The stroke also reportedly partially damaged a shelter.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on 28 April 2020 confirmed that Israel was behind airstrikes against pro-Iranian forces in Syria, saying the military was working to drive Tehran out of the country. We have moved from blocking Irans entrenchment in Syria to forcing it out of there, and we will not stop, Bennett said in a statement. We will not allow more strategic threats to grow just across our borders without taking action, he said. We will continue to take the fight to the enemys territory.

IDF Strike 01 May 2020On 01 May 2020 an Israeli strike targeted a Hezbollah weapons warehouse. The rare daylight strike sparked a massive explosion, according to reports from Syria. The war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the arms cache bombed Israel located outside Homs contained missiles and ammunition belonging to Hezbollah. Damascus denied the blast caused by Israel, saying it was human error. According to Syrian media, the attack triggered huge secondary explosions, apparently as the munitions inside the warehouse detonated. SANA reported that at least 10 people were wounded in the blasts.

The attack was the fifth strike by Israel against Iran-linked forces in Syria in the previous two weeks, coming less than 12 hours after Israeli attack helicopters struck Iran-backed forces in the Syrian Golan Heights. Syria accused Israeli helicopters of firing at least five missiles at targets on the Syrian Golan Heights, just across the border from Israel. From the occupied Golan airspace, enemy Israeli helicopters attacked positions in the southern region with several missiles, Syrian state news agency SANA said. SANA said the missile strike in the area of Quneitra caused only material damage.

IDF Strike 04 May 2020The Syrian army said in a statement that Israel hit military barracks in Safira in the eastern Aleppo countryside on 04 May 2020. Earlier, state television had said a research center was targeted in the fifth such strikes in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported another late Monday strike in the eastern Deir el-Zour province, which targeted positions of Iranian and Iran-backed fighters and killed, according to the report, 14 Iranian and Iraqi fighers. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

By July 2020 Iran and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon did not have the maneuverability to respond to increasing Israeli attacks against them and are unlikely to carry out a large-scale retaliation. Israel has upped its attacks on Iranian targets in the region in recent months, striking Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Syria. But Iran and its proxies still seem to be following a strategy of non-escalation when it comes to Israel, said experts, pointing to Irans limited capabilities in Syria. A month after Israel last struck Iranian targets in Syria, fresh airstrikes attributed to Tel-Aviv targeted on July 20 several Iranian interests near the capital Damascus. The Israeli attacks came in two waves, destroying weapons and ammunition warehouses while killing five Iranian-backed non-Syrian and Syrian militiamen and wounding four others in south and southwest Damascus, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory. The Israeli strategy in Syria primarily seeks to target equipment and weapons, rather than military personnel and commanders, but the July attack appeared to have been different from a strategic standpoint. Seeing an opportunity to escalate strikes in Syria before the upcoming US elections, Israel has upped its war on Iran and its proxies in Syria.

The geographic targets Israel chose for this strike were similar to previous attacks, namely falling in the vicinity of Sayeda Zeynab, Qeswa, Mazzeh, Daraya, Quneitra regions, on a regular basis. Iran does not have the capability to move its equipment and fighters around freely, which means that its margin of maneuver is severely limited by the Russians, within the capital Damascus, which leaves it vulnerable to Israeli attacks. Russia has established the rules of engagement for Iran and Israel in Syria, turning a blind eye to Israeli strikes on Iranian interests in Syria while preventing any retaliation by Iran or Hezbollah.

Israel wants to stop Iran and Hezbollah from entrenching themselves in Syria. Iran is working on creating a line of confrontation similar to the one it created in Lebanon. Hezbollah also has several bases in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and close to the Lebanese border that it will not abandon.

Syrias escalation cannot be dissociated from the covert war taking place in Iran in the form of mysterious explosions and fires, the most lethal of which being the recent blast at the Natanz enrichment site. It is difficult for Iran and Hezbollah to retaliate at this time given complex conditions at home and around the region.




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