Tunnel crossing between Lebanon and Israel went 22 stories deep

An opening of a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, is seen during a media tour organised by the Israeli military near Zar'it in northern Israel, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

ZARIT, Israel (Reuters) – The Israeli army on Monday showed the inside of a sophisticated tunnel passing deep underground from Lebanon into northern Israel, saying it was intended for use by Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

The inside of a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, is seen during a media tour organised by the Israeli military near Zar'it in northern Israel June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

The inside of a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, is seen during a media tour organised by the Israeli military near Zar’it in northern Israel June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

The tunnel was rigged with electrical wiring, fuse boxes and communications equipment. An army spokesman said it began almost a kilometer (mile) away inside Lebanon and reached depths of some 80 meters (265 feet) – about the height of a 22-storey building – as it crossed into Israel, near the town of Zarit.

It came to light earlier this year during an army operation in which a number of attack tunnels dug by Iran-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah were discovered and sealed off, the military said.

Hezbollah’s leader, in response to Israel’s tunnel operation, said in January that his group has been able to enter Israel for years. But he stopped short of acknowledging that the tunnels were the handiwork of Hezbollah, citing the heavily armed group’s policy of “ambiguity” on military matters and a desire to deny Israel a pretext to attack.

Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006. While they have at times traded blows within Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israel-Lebanon border has mostly been quiet.

Israeli Army Spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus looks at during a media tour organised by the Israeli military inside a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, near Zar'it in northern Israel, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

Israeli Army Spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus looks at during a media tour organised by the Israeli military inside a cross-border tunnel which Israel said was dug from Lebanon into Israel, near Zar’it in northern Israel, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

Israel regards Iran as its biggest foe and Hezbollah as the main threat on its borders. It has waged an increasingly open campaign of military strikes against them both in Syria, where they have fought on the government side in the civil war.

(Reporting by Avi Ohayon; Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Israel warns Hamas not to try to foil its anti-tunnel Gaza wall

FILE PHOTO - Heavy machinery can be seen at work along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, as seen from Kfar Aza, southern Israel February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel warned Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Thursday not to try to foil its construction of a border wall designed to stop tunnels between the two sides.

It said it had mapped militant emplacements hidden under civilian sites in the Palestinian enclave that may be attacked in any new war.

Hamas accused Israel of belligerence.

The unusually detailed Israeli threat followed a rocket launch on Tuesday which caused no damage in Israel and went unclaimed by Gazan groups. Israel responded with an air strike on a Hamas facility that medics said wounded seven people.

Such flare-ups have been relatively rare since the last Gaza war, in 2014, with Hamas mostly holding fire and reining in smaller militant factions.

But as Gaza’s poverty and political drift deepens, both sides worry another conflict could erupt.

In September, Israel went public with a sensor-equipped underground wall being planted on its side of the 37 mile- (60 km) long border, a counter-measure developed after Hamas fighters used tunnels to blindside its troops during the war.

Israeli media published new disclosures by the military on Thursday about the project, costing $1.1 billion and to be completed within two years under an accelerated schedule.

Israel has described it as a territorial counterpart to its Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor, capable of blunting Hamas’s limited means of challenging its superior armed forces.

“I think the other side will have to re-evaluate the situation in view of the barrier’s construction,” Haaretz newspaper quoted the chief of Israel’s southern command, Major-General Eyal Zamir, as saying in the media briefing.

“If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason (for Israel) to go to war over. But the barrier will be built.”

The military also published aerial photographs and coordinates of two Gaza buildings that it said Hamas was using as cover for tunnel networks. One of these, it said, is a Hamas member’s family home, linked to a mosque by a secret passage.

“These two targets, as far as I’m concerned, are legitimate military targets, and in the event that a new war begins, anybody in them is endangering himself, his family, and the responsibility (for their wellbeing) will fall on Hamas,” Zamir said in a separate briefing to foreign journalists.

A Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the Israeli statements “lies and fabrications that aim to damage the image of the Palestinian resistance and justify the mass killing of thousands of Palestinians civilians”.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the 2014 war, according to the Gaza health ministry. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.

A new buffer zone within Israel’s territory, dozens of meters (yards) in width, will afford it extra time to respond by depriving Hamas tunnelers of targets on the frontier.

Israeli media said on Thursday that the military also planned to build an underwater barrier in the Mediterranean to prevent infiltration from Gaza by sea.

(Reporting by Dan Williams; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

North Korea may have resumed tunneling at nuclear test site

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un salutes as he arrives to inspect a military drill at an unknown location, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Satellite images show that North Korea may have resumed tunnel excavation at its main nuclear test site, similar to activity seen before the country’s most recent nuclear test in January, a U.S. North Korea monitoring website reported on Wednesday.

The 38 North website, run by the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said such activity could be carried out as part of preparations for a nuclear test, as was the case in January, or to conceal such preparations.

It said commercial satellite images of the West Portal of the Punggye-ri test site taken on Tuesday showed two small ore carts on a track crossing a road from a tunnel entrance.

“The presence of the two carts … and the absence of any notable changes in the spoil pile suggests that tunnel excavation operations are about to resume, or have recently resumed, for the first time this year,” the 38 North report said.

The report said the images also showed limited movement of vehicles and equipment at the site’s North Portal, where the past three North Korean nuclear tests took place, compared to images taken on April 14.

“These activities by themselves do not establish that test preparations are imminent. However, the possibility of an impending test cannot be ruled out,” the report said.

“Pyongyang has clearly demonstrated, with its fourth nuclear detonation this past January, the ability to conduct detonations on short notice while masking indicators of its preparations from satellite view.”

A South Korean official declined to comment on any new intelligence reports of activities at the site but said the military was on high alert over the possibility that the North could conduct a nuclear test at any time.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in March that his country has miniaturized a nuclear warhead and ordered tests of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

38 North reported in early December that satellite photographs from the two previous months indicated North Korea was digging a new tunnel for nuclear testing.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and has vowed to conduct more, despite the stepped up international sanctions.

Some experts expect North Korea to conduct a fifth nuclear test before a ruling party congress in early May, following an embarrassing failure in the test of an intermediate-range missile last week.

The top U.S. diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region warned on Tuesday that a fifth North Korean nuclear test could trigger new sanctions including an effort to choke off hard currency earnings by its workers abroad.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul; Editing by Tom Brown and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Federal Agents seize longest Mexico California drug tunnel

United States attorney Laura E. Duffy looks down the opening of a hole in the ground after the discovery of a cross-border tunnel

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – Federal agents have seized a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana smuggled through a clandestine tunnel stretching a half mile beneath the U.S.-Mexico border, the longest one yet unearthed in California, authorities said on Wednesday.

Six people were arrested as authorities in San Diego moved on Monday and Tuesday to shut down the tunnel, the 13th underground passageway discovered along California’s border with Mexico since 2006.

The 870-yard-long tunnel, one of the narrowest found in the region, also yielded an unprecedented cache of drugs.

“This is the largest cocaine seizure ever associated with a tunnel,” said Laura Duffy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

The northern end of the tunnel, like most of the others, emerges in a narrow industrial expanse between the Otay Mesa port of entry and the California Highway Patrol’s border facility. The area, known for its heavy clay soil, is primarily traversed by trucks hauling tons of legitimate cargo between the two countries every day.

The latest tunnel, excavated 46 feet beneath the surface, ran from the bottom of an elevator shaft built into a house in Tijuana to a hole in the ground on the U.S. side enclosed within a fenced-in lot set up as a pallet business. The hole was concealed under a trailer-sized trash dumpster that smugglers used to move the drugs off the lot, federal officials said.

“They put the drugs in the dumpster and then hauled the dumpster to another location to unload it,” Duffy said. Federal agents followed a truck that carted the dumpster to a central San Diego spot about 25 miles north of the border and watched as the cargo was loaded onto a box truck, which drove away.

San Diego County sheriff’s deputies who stopped the truck seized 2,242 pounds of cocaine and 11,030 pounds of marijuana, and arrested three men, Duffy said. Federal agents searching the pallet lot and the tunnel recovered an additional 3,000-plus pounds of marijuana and arrested three more suspects, she said.

The suspects were all jailed on various drug-trafficking conspiracy charges.

Federal agents who patrol the Otay Mesa area immediately north of the border began watching the pallet company, its yard stacked with grimy, wood-frame racks, in October, Duffy said.

“The investigation began with an astute border patrol agent who identified this business as suspicious,” Duffy said. “They began monitoring this location and saw the people here conducting dry runs.”

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Andrew Hay)

Netanyahu: No Peace Deal Without Destroying Tunnels

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would not agree to any cease-fire that does not allow the Israeli Defense Force to destroy every infiltration tunnel that has been built in Gaza by the terrorist group Hamas.

“We have destroyed dozens of tunnels and we will finish the rest with or without a cease-fire,” Netanyahu told reporters prior to a security cabinet meeting Thursday.

Netanyahu then spoke about the Israeli offensive into Gaza to drive out the terrorist and reported that Hamas has taken hard hits to their infrastructure and storage locations.  He thanked the Israeli people for standing so strongly together during this hard time.

“At this time I call on the people and the MKs to stand behind the mission. In the days that our soldiers are fighting the enemy and endangering themselves, we owe it to them… if we are together we are stronger,” he said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon echoed Netanyahu after the meeting, saying that Israel would not sacrifice any of the security of its citizens to end the fighting.

Hamas Claims Responsibility For Tunnel Under Israeli Border

Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip have taken responsibility for a mile and a half long tunnel that ran under the border between Israel and Gaza.

According to a report on a Hamas radio station website, the group’s armed wing claimed the tunnel. Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the Islamic terror group’s military wing, said in an interview that Hamas’ armed brigades built the tunnel and were responsible for maintaining its operation.

Ubaida claimed the reason for the tunnel was to try and force Israel to release Hamas prisoners. The plot was similar to a 2006 military style operation where the terrorists kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit using a border tunnel. Israel released over 1400 Hamas inmates to obtain the release of Shalit.

The tunnel raised concern in Israel because it had been reinforced with concrete supports. Israel had recently lifted the ban on transporting construction materials into the Gaza Strip amid international pressure over the blockade. Israel had claimed they restricted the transport of materials because Islamic terrorists would use the materials to build fortified bases and weapons.