IDF Intelligence chief talks broader goal of anti-tunnel operation

IDF’s intelligence chief said that the main goal of Operation Northern Shield is to make Hezbollah realize that it didn’t have a card up its sleeve after all.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Operation Northern Shield “is not an operation aimed at disrupting the offensive tunnels of Hezbollah,” IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heyman said at the Calcalist’s Forecasts 2019 conference in Tel Aviv on Monday. “This is a highly classified and broad program, in which the offensive component was a crucial and important part, but not the whole, not the entire program.”

Heyman, who served as commander of the Northern Corps., and took up his position as head of IDF intelligence at the end of March, 2018, said that the main goal of Israel’s current operation is to deter Hezbollah from attacking by letting the terror organization know that Israel is aware that the tunnels exist.

“The fact that Hezbollah held this card up its sleeve could have led it to irresponsible decision-making, believing in its ability to carry out an act of enormous damage to the State of Israel,” Maj.-Gen. Heyman said.

The intelligence chief noted that it was of “tremendous importance” for Israel to take from its enemies those abilities that lead them to make risky decisions, to prevent them from taking “dangerous gambles” that stem from the false understanding that they have capabilities that endanger Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces are determined to completely eliminate the motivation and ability of its enemies from  carrying out the types of attacks Hezbollah had planned, Maj. Gen. Heyman said.

The IDF estimates that Hezbollah’s plan involved an invasion of terrorists through the tunnels accompanied by artillery or missile bombardment. The IDF says that the terrorists planned to take control of major roads, invade Jewish towns in the north, killing and kidnapped Israeli civilians, and by doing so achieve a major propaganda victory.

Lebanese ‘soul-searching’

Maj. Gen. Heyman says that the citizens of Lebanon will do some “soul-searching” in the coming days as they think about the Hezbollah tunnels built with Iranian money and what would have happened to their country if Hezbollah had attacked, forcing an Israeli counter-attack on Lebanese infrastructure.

The intelligence chief painted a picture of Hezbollah in distress, noting it faced a difficult financial and political situation in Lebanon. Israel’s exposure of its terror tunnels further weakens it and gives Israel an edge against the Iran-backed group. He says Israel gained valuable knowledge in combating tunnels.

“The understanding Israel gained in taking care of underground damage that was created will serve it in the entire Lebanese sector, and the significance of this from Hezbollah’s point of view is terrible,” Maj. Gen. Heyman said.