Seven weeks into Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, one of the main challenges facing the Israeli military is the site of Hamas tunnels that span the entire territory.
Israel has begun filling some of Gaza’s tunnels with seawater in an effort to destroy the underground network, a US official told CNN on Tuesday, adding that Israel’s military is “carefully testing” it “on a limited basis”.
If successful, the flood could escalate to cause massive damage to the tunnel network.
However, the method is difficult and controversial. Even when activated with sufficient water at high pressure, it is only partially successful. This can contaminate freshwater supplies and damage any infrastructure on the surface.
For the Israeli government, there is also the risk that Hamas may still kill hostages in Gaza, many of whom are believed to be underground.
Israel doesn’t know if the method will work, the U.S. official said, but they have assured the U.S. that they are careful to only search mines where they don’t believe hostages are being held.
CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment.
A spokesman for Hamas said on Thursday that the group had set up its tunnels to withstand possible attempts to pump water into them.
“These tunnels were built by well-trained and educated engineers,” Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan told a news conference in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
While the tunnels were a tool of war, they also served as an economic lifeline for Gaza’s residents, transporting people, goods, and sometimes even American fast food Amid a 17-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.
Read CNN Full report on Hamas tunnels in Gaza.