Israel begins flooding Gaza tunnels with seawater: Report

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Israel has initiated pumping seawater into Hamas’s extensive tunnel network in the war-torn Gaza Strip as part of a broader effort to dismantle the underground infrastructure supporting Hamas operations, U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The process of flooding the tunnels with water from the Mediterranean is in its early stages and is one among various techniques Israel is employing to clear and destroy these tunnels, the daily stated, building its claims on remarks by U.S. officials briefed on the Israeli military operations.

A spokesperson for the Israeli defense minister declined to comment, saying the tunnel operations are classified.

In recordings between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and released hostages and their families, concerns were raised about the potential harm to the hostages due to the flooding of the tunnels, the report said.

During a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, U.S. President Biden was asked about Israel’s flooding of the tunnels. While he did not directly address the Israeli approach, he mentioned concerns about the impact on the more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas.

The use of seawater in the vast underground labyrinth, spanning approximately 300 miles and featuring thick blast doors, is still under evaluation by Israeli officials, according to U.S. sources. The flooding, which is anticipated to be a weeks-long process, commenced with the addition of two more pumps to the five already installed last month.

Some in the Biden administration expressed concerns about the effectiveness of using seawater and its potential to endanger Gaza’s freshwater supply. Nonetheless, other U.S. officials believe that this technique could contribute to the destruction of parts of the tunnel network.

Military analysts suggested that Israel has not yet eliminated most of the tunnel network, requiring a variety of techniques, including airstrikes, liquid explosives, robots and drones. Israel’s military is intensifying operations underground in northern Gaza and beneath the southern city of Khan Younis, identified as one of Hamas’s last strongholds.

Controlling around 40 percent of the coastal enclave above ground, Israel faces the significant challenge of Hamas’s tunnels, which continue to be a major obstacle to the destruction of the group’s military capabilities.

Israel has been hesitant to deploy soldiers underground, fearing the loss of tactical advantages and the presence of booby traps. The underground theater remains a critical challenge, even in areas already taken by Israel.

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