11:22 GMT18 May 2021
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    The statement came after Hezbollah's second-in-command Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview with Iran's al-Vefagh newspaper in early December that the Lebanon-based militant group is capable of targeting any point in Israel with its missiles.

    Hezbollah planned to use its underground attack tunnels to suddenly invade Israel in an operation that was aimed at shaking the Jewish state, according to the country's outgoing Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief Gadi Eisenkot.

    In an interview with Israel's Hadashot TV news, Eisenkot said that Hezbollah "had grandiose notions" and that "they were looking many years ahead, to a war or wide escalation, where they [believed they] would have […] an ace in their deck".

    READ MORE: Israel Calls for Anti-Hezbollah Sanctions as Its Anti-Tunnel Operation Unfolds

    He claimed that Hezbollah wanted to launch a surprise attack on Israel from underground tunnels by sending "1,000 to 1,500 fighters into our side".

    Eisenkot argued that Hezbollah also considered "a massive artillery bombardment of IDF bases" as a possible means to cover their invasion.Additionally, the militant group allegedly planned to take control of "a piece of Israeli territory and hold it for weeks".

    "They said, this is something Israel has never experienced since its founding, and it will be an achievement that will disrupt the State of Israel's ability to attack inside Lebanon, throw Israel off balance, and cause an earthquake in Israeli society", Eisenkot  pointed out.

    READ MORE: Ex-Israeli Defence Minister Admits to Lying About Hezbollah Tunnels For Years

    The statement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in late December the conclusion of Operation Northern Shield to destroy Hezbollah's tunnels that crossed into Israeli territory.  The country's military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman, in turn, insisted that the operation would take several more weeks to complete.

    In a separate development that month, Hezbollah's second-in command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, was cited by Iran's al-Vefagh newspaper as saying that the militant group is capable of targeting any point in Israel with its missiles.

    According to him, the missiles serve to deter Israel from starting another war with Lebanon by exposing the "Israeli home front".

    READ MORE: Hezbollah Leader Vows to Respond to Any Israeli Attack on Lebanon — Reports

    Lebanese-Israeli relations have remained tense for many decades, with tensions escalating recently amid Israeli suspicions that Hezbollah was being used by Iran to wage a proxy war on Israel.

    The two countries' ties were further tarnished after Israeli troops launched in early December after the launch of Operation Northern Shield, aimed at destroying suspected Hezbollah tunnels used to funnel militants and arms through the Israel-Lebanon border.

    Israel and Hezbollah last clashed in 2006, with Israeli forces invading Lebanon after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.The lengthy conflict, which lasted 34 days and claimed the lives of over 1,300 people, was halted by a UN-brokered ceasefire.


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