The Israeli army admits to flooding its tunnels in Gaza

The Israeli army admits to flooding its tunnels in Gaza

It has been rumored for some time, but on Tuesday the Israeli military came with official confirmation: it is in the process of flooding Hamas tunnels that run under Gaza. According to the army, this is “part of a variety of ways in which the army has to deal with tunnels.”

Hundreds of kilometers of tunnels constitute a valuable asset in the hands of Hamas. Fighters use them to move undetected, carry out surprise attacks, take hostages, and perhaps also to hide leaders. The Israeli army is keen to collapse the tunnel network. Tunnels are also destroyed by air strikes or explosives planted by the army.

The Wall Street Journal It was reported in December that the Israeli army had installed several water pumps in northern Gaza on the coast. The pumps are scheduled to pump thousands of cubic meters of water per hour from the Mediterranean Sea into the tunnels, according to a US official familiar with the plans. The Israeli army refused to respond to these reports at the time.

Not without risks

Experts have warned that pumping seawater through tunnels will not be without risks. If too much water seeps deep into the ground through tunnels, it could damage sewerage systems, salinize groundwater reserves — 97 percent of which are already contaminated, according to the World Health Organization — render farmland unusable and destroy buildings. . Calm down. “It will destroy the living conditions of everyone in Gaza,” Mark Zeitoun, head of the Geneva Water Center – a research institute at the University of Geneva – told the British newspaper in December. Watchman.

Flooding tunnels is a tactic that is often used. Egypt also used it several times, in an attempt to destroy some of the tunnels that linked Gaza and Egypt, and were used to smuggle food and weapons. The consequences soon became noticeable to local residents. “We always took water from the well to drink and cook,” a 73-year-old Rafah farmer told AFP at the time. “And now it is no longer suitable for agriculture.”

“The hostages are not in danger.”

The IDF itself says the water is only pumped through “tunnel methods and appropriate locations,” which should avoid contaminating groundwater. The army does not believe that flooding the tunnels will endanger the hostages that Israel says are being held in the tunnels. Spokesman Daniel Hagari said the army had good intelligence on the location of the hostages and would not take any steps that would put the hostages in danger.

In addition to the water pumps on the coast, a water pump has now been installed in southern Khan Yunis, which does not use seawater but pumps water from Israel. The question is whether this tactic will be widely deployed; Several concerned US officials said this week The Wall Street Journal Things are not going smoothly so far. In some places, water leaks quickly or stops because of doors or walls in the tunnels. A military official told Israeli media that dismantling the entire tunnel network could take years.

New research: Half of the buildings in Gaza were damaged or destroyed

Half of the buildings in Gaza have now been damaged or destroyed by Israeli bombing carried out since October 7, in response to the deadly attack launched by Hamas that day.

This is demonstrated by a study conducted by researchers from the City University of New York and Oregon State University. Researchers have been collecting satellite images of Gaza for months, comparing them to identify differences, such as part of a building being swept away.

According to their analysis, there are now between 144,000 and 175,000 buildings in the Gaza Strip that are partially damaged or completely destroyed. This amounts to between 50 and 61 percent of all buildings.

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