Israel army targets Gaza tunnels with waterflow to halt Hamas attacks

The military, in a statement on Tuesday, described the water channelling as one of the multiple tools being utilized to counter the threat posed by Hamas’s subterranean network of tunnels.

The Israeli army has confirmed that it is channelling water into the extensive network of tunnels in Gaza, a measure aimed at dismantling the underground infrastructure employed by Hamas militants for launching attacks on Israel.

The military, in a statement on Tuesday, described the water channelling as one of the multiple tools being utilized to counter the threat posed by Hamas’s subterranean network of tunnels. This comes as part of a broader effort to neutralize the network that has been dubbed “the Gaza metro” by the Israeli army.

Reports stipulate that at the outset of the conflict in October, there were approximately 1,300 tunnels spanning over 500 kilometres (310 miles) throughout Gaza, according to a study from the U.S. military academy West Point. The large underground network has been a significant concern for the authorities of Israel.

The decision to flood the tunnels with water emphasizes the Israeli military’s commitment to dismantling this complex infrastructure. The move follows a solemn vow made by the military to remove the tunnels, especially in the aftermath of a devastating attack on October 7 in southern Israel. The assault resulted in around 1,140 casualties, predominantly civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on official Israeli figures.

Since the attack by Hamas, Israel has conducted air, land, and sea offensive in Gaza. These attacks have resulted in killing at least 26,751 people including mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory. The army of Israel claims that Hamas has taken many hostages and has been or continues to be held in the massive network of tunnels. Some Israeli media in December reported that the military was leaning towards flooding the tunnels with pumped seawater from the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, experts warned about this option and stated that it can be proved to a dangerous and pose a risk to the besieged civilians of Gaza.

Lynn Hastings, the then-UN humanitarian coordinator for Palestinian territories warned and said, “It will cause severe damage to the already fragile water and sewage infrastructure that’s in Gaza. There’s even a risk of buildings and roads collapsing because of the increased pressure and infiltration of seawater into Gaza.”

On the other hand, the army stated that the pumping of water was only carried out in tunnel routes and locations that were suitable and matching the method of operation to each case. It further stated that the tool was one of a range of capabilities developed by the IDF and Israel’s security establishment in recent years to operate against the underground infrastructure of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.