IDF forces and construction vehicles on the border with Lebanon. (Basel Awidat/Flash90) (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

“I am applying force with caution and responsibility,” Netanyahu told foreign diplomats while touring the north, explaining that the IDF may have no choice but to act in Lebanon.

By TPS and United with Israel Staff

There is a “reasonable chance” that Israel will be forced to act in Lebanon as part of Operation Northern Shield, Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday.

He made the statement shortly after meeting with foreign ambassadors at Kibbutz Misgav-Am, close to Israel’s border with Lebanon, where he briefed them on Operation Northern Shield. The operation to expose and dismantle Hezbollah’s cross border tunnels began earlier this week.

“I am applying force with caution and responsibility,” Netanyahu declared.

Netanyahu updated the diplomats on the intelligence picture of Hezbollah’s intention to use the tunnels to attack Israel, emphasizing that this is an “expression of Iranian aggression in the region.”

“On a foggy day like this one, you can assess the murderous effectiveness of the terror tunnels I’m talking about,” Netanyahu told the diplomats, “What we are faced with is one large enemy. That enemy is called Iran.”

According to Netanyahu, Hezbollah is acting both on the nuclear front, as well as in efforts to gain military presence in Syria and southern Lebanon using Hezbollah.

The prime minister asked the diplomats to denounce Hezbollah, support further sanctions against the terror organization and demand that the Lebanese stop giving Hezbollah free rein in southern Lebanon, which the Shi’ite organization uses as a base of operations for actions against Israel.

“Israel expects a clear denouncement of Hezbollah, the instillation of further sanctions against Hezbollah, and a demand from the Lebanese government to stop giving [Hezbollah] permission to use its territory for these attacks on Israel,” said Netanyahu, adding that these demands will be put forth by Israel during the next meeting of the United Nations Security Council. “This is an important diplomatic step, which completes our operational effort to deprive Hezbollah and Iran of the weapon of attack tunnels.

“We are depriving our enemies of the tunnel weapon methodically and determinately,” Netanyahu continued. “We will act as is necessary. Whoever attacks us – their blood will be on their own heads. Hezbollah and Hamas both know that.”

UNIFIL Must Take ‘a Much Tougher Approach’

In response to a diplomat’s question, Netanyahu said that “UNIFIL (the UN Interim Force in Lebanon) should expand its role, because evidently it’s not been done. UNIFIL is supposed to monitor, at the very least monitor if not stop, the transfer of weapons into Lebanon, into south Lebanon. And you know there were 15,000 rockets and missiles at the end of the Second Lebanon War. There’s about 10 times that and we haven’t seen a single case, a single filing of a complaint or report by UNIFIL.

“The commander of UNIFIL has said that there was no recorded violation,” he added. “Look at this tunnel. That’s a clear act of recorded violation. We think UNIFIL should discharge its responsibility and actually do it with a much tougher approach and with a bigger force.”

The prime minister also commented on concerns by residents in recent years about the building of tunnels in the north.

“We were hearing from communities all alongside the Lebanese border, they’re building tunnels, we don’t know, they’re coming under our homes. Now we’re telling them we do know. They must sigh a great sigh of relief because they see that we’re handling this matter just as we dismantled it in Gaza.”

‘We’re Not the Aggressive Power’

“I think there’s one other point. You’re going to hear from Hezbollah today that Israel is the aggressive power and so on, and Israel is flying over Lebanon. So the answer is, first of all, we’re not the aggressive power, we didn’t say that we want to destroy Lebanon and our life’s goal is not to eradicate the people of Lebanon off the face of the earth. But that’s the goal of Hezbollah vis-à-vis the Jewish State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued.

“The second point is that we have a perfect right of preemptive self-defense to survey and collect intelligence against those who openly declare their goal to destroy us, and we do so. But what they’re doing is actually invading our ground, our territory. That’s what they’re doing and you can’t make a false symmetry between these two things.”

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