Israel Awaits US Go Ahead to Flood Hamas Tunnels
The Israel Defense Forces set up five large water pumps near the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City last month. They want to flood Hamas’ tunnels by pumping it with thousands of cubic meters of water per hour.
Having alerted the US about their plan last month, Israel is now awaiting a green signal. The IDF wants to destroy Hamas’ subterranean network of passages and hideaways, and flush out the militants.
However, this is a risky plan as Hamas may be holding the Israeli hostages in the tunnels. A report says the Biden administration is not warming up to the idea because of the hostages. But some US officials support Israel’s plans to uproot Hamas.
Flooding Tunnels Will Impact Gaza
Environmental concerns have also been raised about the impact of flooding tunnels on the already war-torn Gaza. Officials say flooding the tunnels with seawater would potentially damage the territory’s aquifer and soil. Hazardous substances would seep into the land and negatively impact building foundations.
The report highlighted that no one knows how successful the pumping would be. And no one knows the details of the tunnels and the ground around them. “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.”
IDF’s plans came to light after Israeli soldiers highlighted that they discovered more than 800 tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the ground offensive in late October. About 500 tunnels have been destroyed. The IDF said the shafts were located in civilian areas, many were located near or inside educational institutions, kindergartens, mosques, and playgrounds.
It’s believed that the Hamas tunnels are a 300-mile-long network. The tunnels are made of concrete, reinforced, equipped with electricity and communications, have stores of food and water, and are large enough to accommodate small gatherings of people.
These tunnels have been there for decades, used for hiding and smuggling goods. But Hamas slowly and steadily expanded the network – in 2001, as per Wilson Center, Hamas militants used the tunnel to explode a bomb under an Israeli military post. In 2007, when Hamas took control of Gaza, they constructed the expanded the tunnels further.
Reports highlight that the tunnels empowered and enabled Hamas to conduct operations without much interference from Israel. Israeli forces are not able to detect the tunnels with traditional GPS, or other surveillance tech.