Israel confirms flooding Hamas tunnels as mediators press for truce

AFP , Tuesday 30 Jan 2024

Israel's army said Tuesday it was flooding Hamas's tunnels amid intense fighting in Gaza, even as international mediators pushed for a new halt in the nearly four-month war.

This picture taken during a media tour organised by the Israeli military on January 8, 2024, shows t
This picture shows the entrance of a tunnel in a facility that the Israeli army claims is a Hamas rocket factory in al-Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian resistance group Hamas. AFP


The epicenter of the fighting has been Khan Yunis, southern Gaza's main city where vast areas have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings.

The Israeli military said it had adopted the tactic of channeling water into Hamas's vast underground network of tunnels that it has dubbed "the Gaza metro".

"It is part of a range of tools deployed by the IDF (Israeli military) to neutralize the threat of Hamas's subterranean network of tunnels," it said, confirming media reports.

At the start of the war on Gaza in October, there were 1,300 tunnels over 500 kilometers (310 miles) in Gaza, according to a study from the US military academy West Point.

The army vowed to destroy them in the wake of Hamas's 7 October offensive resulted in the deaths of 1,140 people and some 250 foreign and Israelis were taken captives.

Since then, Israel has launched a withering air, land, and sea offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 26,751 people, 70% of them women and children, with another 65,636 people, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The military says many of the captives have been or continue to be held in the vast network of tunnels.

In December, some Israeli media said the army was leaning towards flooding the tunnels with seawater pumped from the Mediterranean, but experts warned it was dangerous and posed huge risks to civilians.

On Tuesday, the military said it had taken care not to "damage the area's groundwater".

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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