The Israeli military has initiated the process of pumping seawater into Hamas's extensive tunnel network in Gaza, The Wall Street Journal reported citing US officials who have been informed about the Israeli military's actions.
This is a part of a concentrated Israeli campaign to demolish the subterranean infrastructure that has been fundamental to the Palestinian terror group's activities.
The move to inundate the tunnels with water from the Mediterranean sea is among multiple strategies that Israel is implementing in an effort to clear and destroy the tunnels.
According to Israeli authorities, the underground network of Hamas plays a crucial role in the terror group's battlefield operations. They assert that this tunnel system allows Hamas to strategically move their fighters across the battlefield, store their rockets and ammunition, and provides a secure location for the group's leaders to direct and oversee their forces.
Additionally, Israel suspects that some hostages are being kept within these tunnels.
US officials report that the Israelis are still assessing the usefulness of utilising seawater in an extensive subterranean maze, which spans around 300 miles and is equipped with robust blast doors.
The tunnel flooding process, which is anticipated to last several weeks, coincided with Israel's addition of two more pumps to the existing five that were installed the previous month and some preliminary testing, according to US officials.
There have been worries among officials from the Biden administration that the use of seawater may prove ineffective and potentially pose a risk to Gaza's freshwater resources.
In 2015, Egypt employed seawater to flood smuggling tunnels located beneath the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, an action that sparked grievances from local farmers over crop damage.
However, some American officials suggest that the method could assist in destroying parts of the tunnel system.
Assessments from military analysts indicate that the majority of the tunnel network in Israel remains undestroyed, necessitating a range of methods to damage or obliterate the subterranean system.
Besides using seawater, the Israeli military has explored attacking the network through airstrikes and liquid explosives, as well as deploying robots, dogs, and drones.
The Israeli military has announced an escalation in operations beneath northern Gaza and under the southern city of Khan Younis, a final stronghold of Hamas.
The subterranean network poses a significant obstacle to Israel's objective of dismantling Hamas's military power, both in territories it governs overground and those yet unexplored.
Analysts suggest that the tunnels beneath the southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border, serve as the main conduit for Hamas to smuggle the majority of its weaponry into Gaza.
The Israeli military has shown hesitation in deploying troops underground, a situation in which they would forfeit their strategic firepower superiority and face hidden explosive devices.
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