Israel said to set up pumps in Gaza for flooding Hamas tunnels with seawater

Wall Street Journal says IDF has yet to decide on whether to go ahead with plan to flood terror group’s subterranean passages and hideaways, with opinions mixed in US

IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)
IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)

Israel has readied plans to flood Hamas’s system of tunnels under the Gaza Strip with water pumped from the Mediterranean Sea, a move aimed at destroying the terror group’s subterranean network of passages and hideaways and driving its fighters above ground, according to a report Monday.

Quoting US officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Israel Defense Forces last month set up five large water pumps near the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, which are capable of flooding the tunnels within weeks by pumping thousands of cubic meters of water per hour into them.

The officials said Israel alerted the US about the plan last month, but has not yet decided on whether to implement it.

The report noted it was unclear whether the IDF would move to flood the tunnels before all of the hostages that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups abducted during the October 7 onslaught in southern Israel were freed, due to the apparent risk that would be posed to hostages being held underground.

According to the report, opinions in Biden administration were mixed, with some officials expressing concern about the Israeli plan while others said they back Israel’s efforts to destroy the tunnels and that there isn’t necessarily any American opposition.

Among the concerns cited by the newspaper were potential damage to Gaza’s aquifer and soil, if seawater and hazardous substances in the tunnels seep into them, as well as the possible impact on the foundations of buildings.

This handout picture released by the Israeli army shows troops on the ground in the northern Gaza Strip on December 2, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)

“We are not sure how successful pumping will be since nobody knows the details of the tunnels and the ground around them,” a person familiar with the plan told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s impossible to know if that will be effective because we don’t know how seawater will drain in tunnels no one has been in before.”

In 2015, the Egyptian military flooded several smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip’s southern border.

Explosions spread along the underground complex as the IDF blows up a tunnel network in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, in footage released on November 19, 2023. (Kan TV screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

On Sunday, the IDF announced that soldiers have discovered more than 800 tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the ground offensive targeting Hamas that began in late October, some 500 of which have already been destroyed.

The military said it has also destroyed many of kilometers of tunnels, in addition to the shafts.

“The shafts were located in civilian areas, and many of them were located near or inside educational institutions, kindergartens, mosques, and playgrounds,” the IDF said, adding that in some of the tunnels soldiers found Hamas weaponry.

Israel has vowed to topple Hamas after the October 7 massacres, in which some 3,000 Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities, and took around 240 hostages.

During a seven-day truce — which lapsed on Friday after Hamas did not deliver a list of hostages it intended to release and began firing rockets an hour before the truce was due to expire — the terror group released 105 civilian hostages: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals, and one Filipino. It is believed that 136 hostages remain in Gaza.

In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners, all women and minors. Additionally, some 200 trucks, including four tankers of fuel and four tankers of cooking gas, entered Gaza each day.

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