After its extensive bombing campaigns, Israel appears set to take the Gaza battle to the next level. According to media reports, Israel has assembled a system of large pumps with which it could flood the extensive tunnel network of the Islamist movement Hamas under the Gaza Strip with seawater.
The U.S. newspaper Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing U.S. government officials, that it is not known whether the Israeli government intends to use this tactic.
Israel has neither made a final decision nor ruled out such a plan, the officials were quoted as saying.
Israeli forces completed the installation of large seawater pumps north of the Al-Shati refugee camp in mid-November, they said.
At least five pumps were installed, which can draw water from the Mediterranean Sea and direct thousands of cubic metres of water per hour into the tunnels, flooding them within a few weeks, the newspaper reported.
With such a tactic, Israel would be able to destroy the tunnels and drive the terrorists out of their underground hideout, it said.
On the other hand, this would threaten the Gaza Strip’s water supply, U.S. officials were quoted as saying.
Israel first informed the U.S. of this option in early November, prompting a discussion in which the feasibility and environmental impact were weighed against the military value of taking out the tunnels, the report said.
The Israeli army said it has found more than 800 tunnel shafts since the beginning of the Gaza war.
They said on Sunday that about 500 of them have already been destroyed.
Some of the tunnel shafts had connected strategic Hamas facilities underground, it said in a statement.
Many kilometres of underground tunnel routes had been destroyed.
The information could not initially be independently verified.
It would be recalled that Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages.
The Israeli military responded with air strikes on Gaza, and launched a ground offensive. Almost 16,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run government.
Fighting has resumed following the end of a seven-day truce, during which Hamas released more than 100 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.