The Israel Defense Forces are considering all possible means of flushing out Hamas leaders from underground – literally.
This week, the Wall Street Journal cited top U.S. officials who said that Israel has been considering filling the network of underground tunnels that Hamas has set up in Gaza with sea water. It’s all part of the IDF’s plan to destroy and eradicate the terrorist group from the territory.
The WSJ reported that the IDF already set up five pumps at least that could work to draw in ocean water from the Mediterranean Sea, and then be sent into the tunnels. Those pumps could be up and ready to use in just a few weeks, the report said.
Construction on the system began in the middle of November and was conducted by Israel’s military roughly one mile from the Al-Shati refugee camp.
The report pointed out that each of the pumps has the capability to transfer thousands of cubic meters of sea water each hour. That water could then be poured into what the IDF estimates are 800 tunnels at least that Hamas uses to navigate throughout Gaza without being detected.
The U.S. officials told the WSJ that Israel hasn’t yet decided whether they will use the pumps. One of the concerns is that Gaza’s water supply is already scarce and its infrastructure is already fragile – and the pumps could make both of those things worse.
In addition, it wasn’t clear whether Israel would turn to flooding these tunnels only if they were unable to get their remaining hostages freed from Hamas captivity. It’s suspected that many of these hostages are being held in these underground tunnels.
The sources that the WSJ cited said they weren’t sure whether the pumps were a realistic option for Israel, or how close they were to making a decision about it. That being said, they are certainly being considered as a possibility.
The officials added that there are still many questions about whether the plan would be feasible and what impact it would have. As the source told the WSJ:
“We are not sure how successful pumping will be since nobody knows the details of the tunnels and the ground around them. 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.”
What also isn’t certain is the impact that the flooding might have on the limited clean water supply that Gaza has, or on the infrastructure sitting above these tunnels.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies senior vice president, Jon Alterman, commented to the WSJ:
“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.”
Clearly, there’s a lot of uncertainty still, but it’s clear that Israel is considering anything to destroy Hamas altogether.