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Flooding Gaza tunnels a risky bet, experts say | Close- Orient, the eternal conflict

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The entrance to a tunnel which had been dug between the strip of Gaza and Israel, near Kissufim in 2018.

Agence France-Presse

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Flooding the underground tunnels of Gaza to definitively resolve the fate of Hamas hiding there is “a good idea” for the head of the Israeli army. But not necessarily easy to implement and above all hazardous on an ecological level, object experts.

The Israeli army has, according to Israeli media, begun testing the injection of seawater into the sprawling network of galleries dug by the Palestinian Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip.

The latter attacks Israeli soldiers there and sequesters hostages kidnapped during his bloody attack on Israeli soil on October 7. These massacres left 1,200 dead, according to Israel, which immediately vowed to annihilate the armed group and launched an offensive in the Palestinian territory which left more than 18,780 dead, according to the latest report. of the Hamas government.

Nicknamed the Gaza metro by the Israeli military, the maze of galleries was first used to circumvent the blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas took power in the territory in 2007.

Hundreds of galleries have been dug under the border with Egyptian Sinai to move people, goods, weapons and ammunition between Gaza and the outside world.

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After the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, Hamas expanded the network, from which its fighters emerge to fire their rockets towards Israeli soil, throughout Gazan territory.

In a study published on October 17, the Institute of Modern Warfare at the US Military Academy West Point cites 1,300 galleries over 500 kilometers.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Since entering the Gaza Strip on October 27, the Israeli military has realized that the network of tunnels is even more extensive and deeper than they thought, analysis for AFP Raphael Cohen, military expert for the American Research Center, Rand Corporation.

The Israeli army indicated in early December that it had discovered more than 800 descents of tunnels, 500 of which were destroyed.

The wells were located in civilian areas and a large number were near or inside schools, daycare centers, mosques and playgrounds, she detailed, adding that explosives had been placed at the entrance to certain tunnels.

In addition to the death trap that the tunnels constitute for Israeli soldiers, several of the 105 hostages freed (out of some 250 kidnapped on October 7) during the week-long truce that ended on December 1 said they were sequestered there, moved to thanks to strikes and ground combat.

At the end of November, the Israeli army stormed Al-Shifa hospital, claiming to have found a tunnel used for terrorism in its basement and releasing surveillance videos proving, according to them, that hostages had been held there.

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Fighters from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine walk through a tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip in May 2023.

The spokesperson for The army Daniel Hagari explained on Tuesday that the bodies of two hostages had been found in an underground infrastructure in Gaza.

The army Israel remains tight-lipped about how it intends to condemn the tunnels after the war and when the remaining 132 hostages – including 19 bodies – have been brought back.

According to Israeli sources in the press, it would lean towards flooding the galleries with seawater pumped from the Mediterranean, which borders the small coastal territory. Tests have even begun, which proved conclusive, the public television channel Kan 11 said on Thursday.

The head of the army , Herzi Halevi, simply said that it was a good idea.

The problem, Raphael Cohen warns, is that there's no good way to destroy a tunnel without affecting surface infrastructure.

For its part, Hamas says it doubts Israel's ability to achieve its goals.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">These tunnels were built by well-trained and qualified engineers, and they took into account all kinds of potential attacks, including bombing and water, Osama Hamdane, a leader of the movement, said Thursday. Palestinian Islamist in Lebanon.

Some scientists and humanitarian officials say they fear contamination of groundwater by salt water, with catastrophic consequences for the x27;Gazans’ already precarious access to drinking water.

The Gaza Strip is between 6 and 12 kilometers wide, and the salinization of groundwater is already a scourge there, made worse by rising ocean levels.< /p>

To which must be added a chronically failing wastewater evacuation network and an uncontrolled use of pesticides and herbicides in the areas of intensive agriculture in Gaza, warns Professor Eilon Adar of the Zuckenberg Institute for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

These three factors have very serious consequences on the quality of water in Gaza.

To the point of being able to affect future generations, launched Thursday the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings.

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