Israel preparing to flood Hamas tunnels with seawater

IDF pumps could drive out terrorists but critics warn of danger to hostages and Gaza water supply

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to comment on reports of the controversial plan
(Image credit: Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP)

Israel is reportedly poised to flood the vast tunnel network used by Hamas under Gaza despite warnings about the risk to remaining hostages.

According to The Wall Street Journal(WSJ), the Israeli Defence Forces finished assembling at least five pumps just north of the Al-Shati refugee camp last month that could each "move thousands of cubic metres of water per hour" from the Mediterranean Sea into the tunnels. And images released by the IDF yesterday "appear to show scores of Israeli soldiers setting up a series of black pipes" on Gaza's beaches, the Daily Mail reported.

Videos shared by Israeli media also "appear to show IDF soldiers working on the pipes while underground", the paper added. But while flooding the tunnels could destroy the underground network and drive out the terrorist organisation, the move could "prove fatal" for any of hostages being held underground.

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US officials have warned that the tactic could also "threaten Gaza's water supply" and permanently damage the environment, said the WSJ.

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is "keeping mum" about the reported plan, said The Times of Israel, after the prime minister insisted yesterday that he wouldn't "volunteer information to the enemy".

But the IDF's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, publicly endorsed the move as a "good idea".

The Times reported that "controversial US security contractor" Erik Prince, founder of private military company Blackwater, "persuaded" Israel "only days" after the 7 October attacks by Hamas "to buy his sophisticated mining equipment" to flood the tunnels. A source reportedly told the paper that the involvement of the former US Navy Seal was a "red flag" to the Joe Biden administration, which "demanded more study" on the potential impact of flooding on groundwater and sewage facilities. 

Military analyst Professor Michael Clarke told Sky News that the plan to force Hamas out of the tunnels "would work", however. 

But the reports "may be a piece of psychological warfare" to "flush them out" with "words rather than water", he suggested.

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