Israel is preparing to flood the Hamas tunnel network in Gaza

The IDF has been planning to pump seawater into the Hamas tunnel network in Gaza for weeks, the Wall Street Journal has reported and the Jerusalem Post was told weeks ago.

Five large pumps have been assembled north of the al-Shati refugee camp during the last month, with each one capable of pumping thousands of cubic meters of seawater into the tunnels.

The Post had been told by top defense officials that this was one of a series of methods which the IDF hoped to use to destroy and neutralize Hamas’s vast tunnel network.

Israel informed US officials that they were considering this option last month and needed to weigh feasibility and environmental factors against military necessity.

Due to the nature and structure of the tunnels, it is unclear whether the method will be a cure-all for the tunnel threat, or will be useful, but will remain just one of a series of important tactics,

The process could take weeks and therefore could allow Hamas’s fighters to evacuate, potentially taking the hostages with them. However, it isn’t clear whether Israel would wait until all hostages are returned.

A smuggling tunnel beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah [File] (credit: REUTERS)

The environmental impact

Sea water seeping into the soil is a major cause for concern as it can poison already semi-salinated aquifers deep in the ground as well as making the surface extremely unstable.

Fears are that seawater would salinate Gaza’s soil, making it extremely difficult to grow crops. There are also concerns that substances stored in the tunnels could also seep into the soil further contaminating the area.

Former US officials told the Wall Street Journal that the plan would perhaps bring global condemnation, but they conceded it might be one of the few ways to permanently disable the tunnels.

Egypt flooded Hamas tunnels with seawater in 2015, which led to complaints from farmers in Rafah that it had damaged their crops.

Militaries typically use dogs and robots to clear tunnels, however, the effectiveness of flooding the tunnels may prove too lucrative an option for the IDF, saving them time, money, and manpower.

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