Home / World / The discovery of Hezbollah's attack tunnel rattles in a northern Israeli city

The discovery of Hezbollah's attack tunnel rattles in a northern Israeli city

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By F. Brinley Bruton and Paul Goldman

METULA, Israel ̵

1; A soldier rushes to a farmer who has just circled a metal gate to point to a red spot reach.

"Retreating" orders the soldier as the buzzing of a generator fills the air.

"But that's my country," Haim Hod shoots back. Hod, 71, nicknamed Hamke, is standing next to his wife Miriam in an area that is officially a restricted military area.

Behind the couple rows of pithy apple trees march in the direction of Metula, the northernmost city in Israel. The soldier guards a long white tent perching in front of a huge concrete wall. Above the imposing barrier rises a hill full of houses – the Lebanese city of Kafr Kela.

The Israeli military has found more than apples in Haim Hod's orchard. Hezbollah Miltants had dug a tunnel across the border from Lebanon. Dusan Vranic / for NBC News

A few weeks ago, Hod's trees grew on the now depressed Earth. On December 4, the couple and the nation were told that an "attack tunnel" had been discovered on Israeli territory, leading to Lebanon.

The first of the six tunnels finally found ran among farmland near Metula, which sits between apple, plum and peach plantations ringing with the chirps of the parakeet and the caw-caw of the crows.

The authorities later warned that hundreds of Hezbollah fighters had streamed through the tunnels, abducting and killing civilians and soldiers.

Some in Metula put forward the theory that the whole city was conquered by Hezbollah – a pro-Palestinian militant group and political party that dominates Lebanon – and is sponsored by zealous anti-Iranian Iran.

Hezbollah militants return home after the war in Syria, where they supported President Bashar al-Assad while battling rebels who had tried to disappoint him. Fears that the battle-hardened militants will return to an estimated arsenal of 100,000 missiles and missiles will be loud and they will focus more on their original enemy: Israel.

Metula, at the head of a north-facing stretch of land Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to frequent confrontation with enemies at the border. The city was shelled during the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006, which devastated parts of Lebanon.

In the decade before the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, rockets from Palestinian fighters frequently sent Metula residents to shelters.

But not Hod missiles would not drive this third generation farmer out of his home.

His stoicism was more than annoying when warning sirens sounded and his wife took the couple's four children to safety.

Family, without dad, in a shelter the children cried because of Hod's absence.

"He's never scared," says Miriam Hod over dinner in a hotel that leads the couple in town. "That's the problem."

Miriam Hod, 68, is an artist with short hair, big eyes and flowers tattooed on the soft skin of her right hand. Dusan Vranic / for NBC News

Haim Hod smiles, his white teeth lifting against the skin, working in the fields since the age of nine.

"In all the wars I never went to an animal shelter," said Hod. "I always sleep in my bed."

Hod may be brave, but he cried last month when he saw what the army had done to his orchard. The military rolled over its precious apple trees, snapping trunks and branches as they raced toward the newly discovered Hezbollah tunnel. In the clearing, 350 trucks flooded the tunnel with cement.

"The trees are like my children," he says. "But safety comes before children."

The government will reimburse the Hods for the losses incurred during the operation.

The long tenure of the Hods in Metula has seen many such compromises, the thick stone walls of the 120s. a centuries-old family estate plagued by war and emergency waves.

Miriam and Haim Hod stand in front of a tent built by the Israeli military over the exposed tunnel with the border wall and the Lebanese village Kafr Kela behind them Dusan Vranic / for NBC News

Haim's grandparents Hod were the first to be married in the city after Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who promoted the settlement of Jews in present-day Israel, bought the land from a local Arab family.

Times were often tough and it took the family four decades to repay the French banking sprout. Together with other villagers, they regularly had to flee violent outbreaks.

After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, poverty drove many of Haim Hod's 10 uncles and aunts away. Some went abroad, others stayed and helped build Israel, says Miriam.

Israel now warns against beating Hezbollah over the tunnels.

"This is not just an act of aggression. This is a military action, "said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after the discovery of the tunnel. "The people of Lebanon must understand that Hezbollah puts them at risk, and we expect Lebanon to take action."

Such statements are part of a broader effort to keep Hezbollah and Iran out of the northern border of Israel. Israel has only recently admitted that it has carried out thousands of attacks on Iranian troops in Syria and has abandoned a policy of secrecy that has masked its military advance.

On January 20, Israel attacked targets near Damascus and killed 21, including at least 12 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to a Syrian war monitoring group.

In response, Iran launched a rocket towards the crowded ski resort of Mount Hermon. It was intercepted by the Israeli missile defense system. On Monday, the Iranian Air Force chief announced: "We are ready for the decisive war that will bring about the disappearance of Israel from Earth."

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