Israel begins pumping seawater into Hamas tunnels
Tue, December 12, 2023 at 9:59 PM GMT+1·4 min read
Israel’s military has reportedly begun pumping seawater into the Gaza tunnels said to be occupied by Hamas fighters, as it pushes further into the terrorist group’s stronghold.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have built five pumps to flood the network of tunnels, where Hamas fighters have been hiding and holding hostages.
On Tuesday, US officials said the operation had started, and the Biden administration had been told it could take weeks, according to a report.
Asked about the report, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, the IDF chief of staff, told a press conference such a tactic would be a “good idea”.
Appearing to confirm the operation, he added: “We are seeing a lot of underground infrastructure in Gaza, we knew there would be a lot. Part of the goal is to destroy this infrastructure.
“We have various ways [to deal with the tunnels]. I won’t talk about specifics, but they include explosives to destroy, and other means to prevent Hamas operatives from using the tunnels to harm our soldiers.”
News of the tactic, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, came as the IDF released video appearing to show troops confronting and shooting dead Hamas militants in Gaza city.
Israel’s defence minister has claimed his soldiers were pressing deep underground and that some Hamas units were “on the verge of being dismantled”.
In an apparent attempt to support this claim, the IDF released head-cam footage recorded by a soldier in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighbourhood.
It claimed to show the reservist shooting and killing a Hamas gunman before a grenade was thrown by a second terrorist. Despite being injured, the Israeli soldier rushes towards the militant and shoots him dead also.
“IDF troops are operating deep underground, locating Hamas infrastructures, destroying them, and bringing [Hamas in] Gaza City closer to breaking,” said Yoav Gallant, the defence minister.
The Telegraph was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the footage released by the IDF.
Israel in ‘tough spot’
It came as Israel declared 19 of 135 people still in Gaza captivity dead in absentia, after announcing its forces had recovered the bodies of two hostages.
The list of 19 included a Tanzanian national, the government press office said.
Tanzania has said that two of its citizens, both farming students, had been among some 240 people taken hostage by Hamas in the militant group’s Oct 7 cross-border rampage. One of the Tanzanians was confirmed dead last month.
Speaking on Monday evening at a White House reception to mark Hanukkah, Mr Biden said Israel was in “a tough spot”. He also hinted at the conversations he had been having with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.
“We’ll continue to provide military assistance to Israel until they get rid of Hamas, but we have to be careful – they have to be careful,” Mr Biden said. “The whole world’s public opinion can shift overnight, we can’t let that happen.”
‘Half of Gaza population starving’
As the UN General Assembly seemed poised to consider another ceasefire resolution, the Palestinian foreign minister accused Israel of starving Gaza.
The UN World Food Programme has said half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is starving because of the expansion of Israel’s military assault on the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Israel denies this.
“As we speak, at least one million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, half of them children, are starving, not because of a natural disaster or because of lack of generous assistance waiting at the border,” Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said at a UN event.
Earlier this week, Mr Gallant, the defence minister, pushed back at claims that Israel needed to put an end to its military operation in Gaza and said it would likely “take time” to conclude.
Speaking to Associated Press, Mr Gallant declined to commit to any deadlines, and signalled the ground fighting could go on for weeks, if not months.
“We are going to defend ourselves. I am fighting for Israel’s future,” he said. He said the next phase would be lower-intensity fighting against “pockets of resistance” and would require Israeli troops to maintain their freedom of operation.
He added: “That’s a sign the next phase has begun.”