ORn Tuesday, Israel announced the commencement of Operation Northern Shield. Its objective is the destruction of Lebanese Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.
What does this mean?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 's legal and political difficulties are playing into their decision to conduct the operation now. Netanyahu be charged with new corruption offenses. This follows other recommendations earlier this year. Netanyahu's government is also now dependent on hawkish coalition partners such as Naftali Bennett, who wants tougher action against Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iran.
Yet in security terms, this operation is also necessary, justified, and overdue. The Lebanese Hezbollah has utterly breached its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war but required Hezbollah to remove its weapons from southern Lebanon. The opposite has happened. Thanks to Iran, Hezbollah is once again well-armed.
Hezbollah tunneling operations into Israel are designed for a simple purpose: enabling Hezbollah's slaughter of Israeli civilians. This is not a debatable point. It is proven by Hezbollah's past conduct, its strategic interests in northern Israel, and by the basic tactical fact Hezbollah knows that once it has been tunneled into Israel, the Israeli military will localize and destroy its emerging forces. The only obvious Hezbollah objective can be the maximization of spilled Israeli civilian blood.
Northern Shield as can be. It is also effective in the right of Hezbollah tunnels, it will require Israeli forces to enter southern Lebanon. Lebanese side view from the border is highly populated. That offers many buildings which Hezbollah can use as tunnel starting points. Here is likely to be significant.
While Israel's military could launch into Lebanon through deep tunnels, it could be too great in many cases. It's also possible that Israel only knows the Lebanon-based sources of some of the tunnels, not their Israeli end points. Lebanese soil, some ground raids will also be necessary to enable tunnels to their source. Hezbollah reprisals via attacks and tunnel attacks on Israeli territory. Here, while Israel has effectively degraded Hezbollah's ability to conduct sustained long-range, Hezbollah has a large stockpile of smaller but still potent rockets. Another danger here is that Hezbollah might now be pre-emptively launching tunnel or rocket attacks.
In short, Israel does not really have a choice but to do what it is now doing. But the risks of escalation are high.