IDF chief says Hezbollah wanted to use tunnels to invade Israel

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Hezbollah planned to use its underground tunnel network to invade Israel and hold territory for weeks.

In an interview with Channel 2 News, part of a series of interviews before he ends his term of office next week, Eisenkot said Hezbollah planned to use their recently exposed underground tunnel network to carry out a surprise invasion of Israel. “Hezbollah had built what they thought was a fantastic plan, with several tunnels entering from the Metulla area to the sea, and their intention was to launch an attack that would begin with a surprise attack from underground — sending 1,000 to 1,500 fighters into our side … aiming to gain control of a piece of Israeli territory and hold it for weeks,” he said.

When asked about former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s political prospects, Eisenkot said: “I was his deputy during Operation Protective Edge, and his leadership was excellent. He was always there, every second. He spent a great deal of time with the troops, he was at the front.” Eisenkot also praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to keep defence decisions separate from his political considerations.

In an interview with Kan TV Eisenkot said Israel was “not currently striking in Lebanon openly, but working through many clandestine channels that contribute to Israel’s security without causing an escalation”.

He told the news channel that the problem in Gaza is not solely military, but demands a multi-pronged approach. He added that he was amused by critics who claimed he was too soft on Hamas. “Those who know me and follow my service know that it has usually been characterised by initiative, offensive tactics, subterfuge and use of force. It makes me laugh when they say I’m part of the leadership of Peace Now,” he said, referring to criticism from former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.