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Operation Northern Shield: IDF Strikes Hizbullah Terror Tunnels

By the Jerusalem Post, VOA News, World Israel News

Israel has launched an operation on its northern border Tuesday to destroy a series of Hizbullah-built tunnels from Lebanon into Israel. The move could spark tensions between Israel and the pro-Iranian Hizbullah terrorist group. Operation "Northern Shield," as it's been called, is a major, multi-branch effort of the Israeli Defense Forces involving the Intelligence Branch, the Combat Engineering Corps and the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Infrastructure. The Northern Command is leading the operation, headed by Maj.-General Yoel Strick. "The digging of the cross-border attack tunnels, which the IDF discovered before they became operational and posed an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians, constitutes a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty," the IDF said in a statement. "These Hizbullah activities are conducted from the villages of southern Lebanon while harming Lebanon and jeopardizing its civilians to establish its terror infrastructure," the statement read. "The Hizbullah terror organization, which is responsible for digging the cross-border attack tunnels, continues activity that is supported and funded by Iran, to establish its terror infrastructure against Israeli civilians." The Israeli army said it had uncovered the first of what it expects to be many cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hizbullah from Lebanon into Israel. Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Mamalis said the 200-meter tunnel started under a house in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila and extended about 40 meters into Israel. He said Israel would find the tunnels and neutralize them, and that the operation will expand all along its border. Israeli officials said they are only operating on their side of the border. "This is a very complex excavation and the process takes a long time," said Mamalis. Unlike the tunnels built by Hamas and running out of Gaza, Hizbullah's tunnels have been dug through rock and not sand, and a person can stand up to his full height in them. Mamalis underscored that the tunnels were not yet operational and had not yet become a threat to Israeli communities. "We see Hizbullah's activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty," IDF spokesman Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus said. "This activity is another example of the negative effects of Iranian entrenchment in the region." Israel sent reinforcements to the border and said they were prepared for any scenario. There was no immediate comment from Hizbullah. Hizbullah is believed to have an estimated 120,000 rockets that can reach all parts of Israel. A Lebanese army source said the situation was calm on Lebanon's side of the border. The operation comes a day after the Israeli police recommended that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, be indicted on corruption charges. Israeli officials said the timing was coincidental and the operation had been planned for a long time. Support also came from the opposition, including Omer Bar Lev, a Knesset member from the Zionist Union, and former commander of an elite army unit. This is a defensive operation inside Israel, Bar Lev said, adding it is worthwhile and important. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said the U.S. "strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty." He said the U.S. calls on Hizbullah to "stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence." The Hizbullah terror tunnels that the IDF began revealing and dismantling on Tuesday were part of a broad Hizbullah plan to infiltrate terrorists into Israel and occupy parts of the Galilee, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening. He said that this plan was of a "scope and daring" that Israel had not seen before. He said that Operation Northern Shield would continue "as long as it is needed until all of its goals are attained. "Hizbullah knows very well that anyone who attacks Israel will pay a heavy price," he said from the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, with the Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot next to him on the podium. In 2012, Israel became aware of Hizbullah's "plan to conquer the Galilee," as it was termed by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The tunnels were meant as the surprise element of that plan, Israel Hayom reported. As early as 2006, the IDF discovered that Hizbullah was building tunnels into its territory from Lebanon, an activity which only increased after the Second Lebanon War. Israel also faces terror tunnels in the south from the Hamas terror organization in Gaza. It is constructing a massive underground barrier there that runs the entire length of the Gaza Strip. The IDF says that barrier will be virtually impossible to bypass. The Hizbullah terror tunnels that the IDF began revealing and dismantling on Tuesday were part of a broad Hizbullah plan to infiltrate terrorists into Israel and occupy parts of the Galilee, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening.

Israelis Hold Mass Protests Over Violence Against Women

By VOA News

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Tel Aviv on Tuesday against what they see as the Israeli government's inadequate response to violence against women. Red-capped demonstrators called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to "wake up" and carried signs reading "Women's blood is not cheap" and "We are killed and the government is silent." Organizers of the nationwide protests want the government to implement a $67 million plan it promised last year to combat violence against women. At least 24 women were killed in Israel this year, most of whom notified the police before their deaths that they were concerned for their safety. "We had to do something radical, to make sure that women in Israel show the government that we are not going to take this anymore," said Ruti Klein, a protest organizer. Netanyahu came under fire last week after a visit to a women's shelter where he demanded the government act. He was called out for voting against a proposal to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into violence against women. Dozens of major Israeli corporations and municipalities supported Tuesday's strike by paying women who took leave. The protests cut across Israeli society's many divides. Religious and secular Israelis, both Arabs and Jews alike, attended protests in every major city across the country. In Jerusalem, protesters splattered red paint on a street littered with signs bearing the names of dozens of women killed. Activists filled a Tel Aviv Square with some 200 dyed-red shoes meant to symbolize violence against women. Kefaia, 42, an Israeli Arab woman who joined the protests, said her husband was sentenced to only five months in prison for trying to kill her with a knife, and that she fears for her safety when he is released next week. She declined to give her last name for fear he would retaliate against her. "I've been scared to talk for so long, because these topics are really sensitive in the Arab community," she said. "But I can't be silent anymore."

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