Israel has built a system of large pumps it could use to flood Hamas ‘ complex network of tunnels underneath the Gaza Strip with seawater. The IDF finished building several large seawater pumps around a mile north of the Al-Shati refugee camp in mid-November, the Wall Street Journal reported. The pumps, at least five of which have been built, can each pump thousands of cubic feet of water from the Mediterranean Sea into the tunnels per hour, which would lead to them flooding in a matter of weeks.
US officials said Israel first informed them of the plans in early November, though they don’t know when or even if the Israeli government would carry out the plans. One source told the newspaper that the plan would take place over several weeks, meaning that Hamas would have enough time to move all the hostages out of the tunnels.
But sources told the newspaper that they had their reservations about the plan. ‘We are not sure how successful pumping will be since nobody knows the details of the tunnels and the ground around them,’ one anonymous official said. ‘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.’
It’s not currently clear how the move would affect the environment, given how little the world knows about the tunnels underneath Gaza. Jon Alterman, senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: ‘It’s hard to tell what pumping seawater will do to the existing water and sewage infrastructure.
‘It is hard to tell what it will do to groundwater reserves. And it’s hard to tell the impact on the stability of nearby buildings.’ In 2015, Egypt tried a similar method and flooded tunnels near the Rafah crossing with saltwater in a bid to stop smugglers from crossing the border. But local officials said this damaged the water supply in the area and threatened to wreck farmland and spread disease.
The overflow reached streets and homes within 300 ft of the border fence, and vast puddles and tranches of mud were extremely common sights. “One cubic meter of seawater pollutes 40 cubic meters of underground water,” said Tamer al-Sleibi, water department director in the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority in Gaza, told Reuters at the time.
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