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gorillapaws's avatar

How does everyone feel about Israel flooding Hamas tunnels with seawater?

Asked by gorillapaws (30549points) December 18th, 2023

There are reports that Israel is using seawater to flood the Hamas tunnels. The tunnels have been flooded in the past, but using seawater could make the Gaza Strip uninhabitable as it would contaminate the groundwater and could take generations to become livable again. Couldn’t Israel use some of the billions of dollars the US gave them to desalinate the water before pumping it into the tunnels?

Is this eco terrorism? an act of ethnic cleansing? something else?

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42 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

I haven’t heard of this yet, but I have a problem with the concern that it would contaminate ground water. I doubt the tunnels are sitting in a drinking water aquifer. Aquifers are much lower than those tunnels would be. That means any water going into the tunnels would have to filter through quite a bit of Earth to get to the aquifers. Earth is a great filter. The salt would be removed well before it got into the drinking water aquifers.

Also, once in an aquifer, water doesn’t really move that quickly. A ground water aquifer is not a large lake of water underground. It is a porous area underground where water collects in the pores. Water, of course, flows down hill and that is how it moves. Wells are dug down into these area, providing an open pipe for the water to flow into. But the water in an aquifer moves literally only a couple of feet per year at most.

Think of it this way: the Gaza Strip sits right on the Mediterranean Sea which is a salt water body of water. That salt water does not pollute the ground water of the land around it. Why would flowing salt water through a tunnel be any more damaging than a huge salt water supply right next door?

ragingloli's avatar

Did they not recently shoot some naked, unarmed hostages waving white flags?

janbb's avatar

On the surface (the use a pun), it seems a better option to me than the current tactic of bombing the hell out of the region. Since the tunnels are what Hamas uses, it would be good to destroy them and let the civilians survive.

gorillapaws's avatar

@janbb I’ve been arguing since the beginning that flooding the tunnels is much more justifiable than carpet bombing civilians. The concern for me is the saltwater which could affect the fertility and availability of potable water for generations. Israel has the means to desalinate it first.

kritiper's avatar

Excellent solution to the tunnels! Better than tear gas or some other gas.

Forever_Free's avatar

I heard it last week and was not surprised it has not already been done. Why give them a heads up on it. Just do it if you are really going to do it.
They are already destroying Gaza on the surface and creating huge issues for generations to come.
They’re still just rats in a cage

janbb's avatar

@ragingloli That’s not really relevant to this question but it is a horror as well and a big black mark on the IDF. If I were the parent of one of those three hostages, I would be screaming in the streets of Jerusalem. The Israeli military, in which my nephews compulsarily served, used to be known as one of the most intelligent in the world. They have dropped the ball literally in Netanyahu’s war – from ignoring prior intelligence, to committing war crimes and not having an end game in place.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws Reading the article you cited, it seems like the Palestinians have screwed themselves on the groundwater front. Most (97%) of the area’s groundwater is already tainted with sewage, chemicals, etc. to the point of being non-potable. That leaves them a little strip right along the coast to tap into. And they’ve dragged it down so far that the Mediterranean has already started back filling the aquifer. Trying to claim pumping saltwater into tunnels is going to ruin the groundwater in the area seems like a way to blame Israel for Palestinian errors.

In fact, if you read closely enough, the only reason they have fresh water is because Israel built and operated pipelines to supply the people.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575…But why not desalinate it first?

JLeslie's avatar

Hamas can stop the aggression if they give back the hostages. Obviously, that would not solve everything.

Taking the hostages did not and will not accomplish Hamas’ goal to get all of the lands and to drive the Jews out. Let’s say Hamas gets what they want. Then what? They rule over all of New Palestine? Do you think the Palestinians want that? The ones who are in denial about what it will be like. I think most Palestinians don’t want Hamas to lead them if they conquer Israel.

Regarding flooding the tunnels, I don’t know for sure the truth regarding damaging the potable water. If that is true, I would seriously hesitate to do it if it will affect areas that are still standing and regarded as safer areas for civilians. If it will not affect the potable water I’m still conflicted if it might drown a lot of Israeli hostages.

Can they desalinate first? Maybe it is logistically impossible.

I am in favor of destroying the tunnels somehow. I am in favor of a third party being in Gaza to make sure tunnels aren’t built again. The leadership stole the money from the Gazans to build their underground fortress.

Hamas for sure committed war crimes. I know the US news keeps referring to Hamas as terrorists, but they are also the government of Gaza. The jury is out regarding whether Israel has committed war crimes. As I have mentioned before, Israel consults with legal experts, and a man I know used to be a JAG lawyer and worked in NATO and he said it is impossible to get a completely clear picture through media. That almost always how things appear from the outside is not what bears out during investigation.

Moreover, people use the word proportionate in reference to a tit for tat. That “only” 1,200 Israelis were killed and 10,000 Palestinians have been killed (rounding numbers). Proportional does not mean that in war as a legal definition. It means incidental and involuntary damages caused to the civilian population during a military attack shall not be excessive in comparison to the direct military advantage obtained. So, you need to think of it in terms of how important is it to finish Hamas and what are realistic and reasonable measures to take to protect civilians.

Israelis knew that Israeli hostages might die from actions that the Israeli army takes. That’s one reason they want the hostages back besides all of the other obvious reasons. The death of those three Israeli hostages holding white flags is heartbreaking and hard to deal with. The very person who in that moment might have saved them killed them. Many many Palestinians are waving white flags too, not that it really matters, because Palestinian civilians should not be killed that way either, but I don’t know the details of that particular situation. I heard the three men were shirtless not naked.

I do not accept using the term ethnic cleansing. If Israel wanted to ethnically cleanse the area they could easily kill quadruple the people or more of what they have so far. Not that it lessons the disaster of the deaths that have happened.

In my heart I want to be a pacifist, but in my head I know it is impossible.

Arab countries should temporarily take the Gazans in. Whether Israel is right or wrong in their tactics is a subject up for debate, but the Arab world is still just standing by letting other Arabs die. I would compare it to someone doing something very dangerous while driving and counting on other drivers to yield the right of way. It doesn’t matter if you had the legal right of way on your side if you’re dead.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie Reuters disagrees with your numbers, by a LOT.,health%20minister%20said%20on%20Tuesday. Does that still make it OK? Yeah, Israel could have done worse (oh goody! They’ve only slaughtered over ten times as many when they could have killed everybody!) but the world is watching, so they need to be more “circumspect “, huh.

KNOWITALL's avatar

War is not good for children or any living thing.

While I have concerns, I’d flood them. They started this so lets finish it.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t know the details. IF it is true that Israel can just as readily use desalinated water to flood the tunnels, that does sound like it would make sense from an ecological point of view, so I’d tend to be for that.

I tend to think it sounds unlikely that it would actually be very practical to get flood-quantities of desalinated water into position to flood the tunnels as effectively as with whatever they’d use to divert the sea water. But I don’t know.

Drowning people by flooding and entire extensive tunnel system seems relatively inhumane. I don’t know how extensive the system is, or who all might be down there (possibly hostages and/or scared civilians?). Or what the alternative tactics available would be.

It’s certainly all a horrible business all around.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws I think the point I was making with your citation is very simple. Why desalinate it? That’s like closing the barn door after the horse already got out. Palestine has destroyed their ground water and now they want to claim an environmental crisis because Israel wants to pump salt water into the tunnels. That way they can blame all their woes on Israel (as they always do).

Could Israel desalinate it? I’m not sure. The point of flooding the tunnels is to do a rapid flood to drive out any enemy combatants. I am not sure as I have never worked on one, but I suspect you couldn’t make enough desalinated water quickly enough to meet that need. I suspect it wouldn’t be made quickly enough to flood the tunnel, just put water into it and possibly not flood anything. They can hook up big pumps that pump seawater in and it would be over and done.

Hey! Here’s an idea: Hamas could give up all the hostages and stop pushing this war on and on. They could cede their power in the Gaza Strip and let sane, non-combatant Palestinians rule. They could NOT attack Israel all the time. Then we wouldn’t be talking about all the things Israel is and could be doing in response to the attack from Hamas and we wouldn’t have to worry about flooding tunnels.

Demosthenes's avatar

It’s all in service of ethnic cleansing, but considering that the long-term Israeli goal is to annex and settle the Gaza Strip, it doesn’t make much sense from that perspective to make it uninhabitable. Though I suppose for them temporary uninhabitability is worth it as long as the Palestinians are gone for good (whether dead or living in Egypt or Jordan).

JLeslie's avatar

@Zaku I think probably the hope is to force everyone out of the tunnels, not to kill everyone down there. Have them come out before the water is let lose. The problem is Hamas might not let the people out.

@canidmajor I was just explaining what proportionality means regarding legal war jargon. I wasn’t attempting to be accurate with how many deaths have occurred, hence the (rounding) comment because I knew at least one jelly would have to challenge me on just how many Palestinians they believe have died or been harmed. I have not seen the numbers in days. I have no quarrel with you about numbers, because I have not researched it. It’s high numbers, devastating, and upsetting, and in my own mind I wonder if there is a better way.

Could Israel have continued peace talks with Saudi and negotiated for the return of the hostages differently? Could Israel reacting in a way that was not expected resulted in a much better outcome? I don’t know. Certainly it was expected by Hamas and the world that Israel would fight ten times harder, with much more destruction.

One death is too many when it is our loved one who died. Each life is attached to family, friends, society, everyone matters.

Any one of us could be an innocent civilian in a war situation, so of course I can put myself in their place. I can also put myself in the Israelis place. Most especially the emotional reaction from the first attack, which I’m not so sure everyone understands how triggering that event is for Jewish people. Not that governments should react with that sort of emotion.

Forever_Free's avatar

Desalinization is an additional cost of $3—$5 per 1000 gallons and the infrastructure to do this is not in place.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Forever_Free “Desalinization is an additional cost ”

We give Israel $4.3 billion dollars every year.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I don’t think they’re going to be building desalination plants to accomplish this for about ten reasons.

flutherother's avatar

It’s only being considered because the bombing campaign isn’t working. It would be ironic if a few gallons of sea water can achieve what billions of American dollars in military assistance fail to achieve. But what is really required is a political solution not a saline solution.

flutherother's avatar

@janbb Thanks. Did you notice the return of the fish?

janbb's avatar

^^ Oh – a rather different on, though!

flutherother's avatar

I’ll stick with it for a while. It was generated by AI

Forever_Free's avatar

@gorillapaws My point was not about who funds who.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Forever_Free My point was that buying water is a lot cheaper than buying bombs, and that Israel has the money to do it because the US gives it to them.

If the goal is to end Hamas and preserve as many civilian lives as possible, on day 1 Israel should have threatened to flood the tunnels and then begin accruing enough fresh water to do so.

If the goal is to level Gaza and ethnically cleanse it by making it uninhabitable, then you bomb the fuck out of it over 2 months and flood the tunnels with salt water.

KRD's avatar

That is one way to wipe out Hamas. Will this make the Gaza strip uninhabited due to the floodwater?

Forever_Free's avatar

@gorillapaws I answered the OP as asked with my opinion. Apologies if you disagree.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws Think about what you are saying. You claim Israel is trying to ethnically cleanse the area because they want the Gaza Strip. But in the same breath you are claiming they are planning this effort of flooding tunnels to make the land uninhabitable. So which is it? Do they want the land or not?

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 They want the land and are willing to wait generations to get it. The main goal is to get the Palestinians off the land. They can certainly pipe in fresh water. The Palestinians don’t have that luxury.

janbb's avatar

@gorillapaws Actually, water is at at premium in Israel and they do a lot of their own desalinization. I’m not justifying their actions but I think it is impractical to think that they would desalinize the water for flooding.

gorillapaws's avatar

@janbb So if they render the land uninhabitable by choice (since it’s possible to pursue alternative options), what (if any) should be the consequences? Would Israel then be obligated to provide Palestinians potable water until the natural aquifer has flushed out the salt water?

janbb's avatar

@gorillapaws I have no answers; only a shitload of heartache. On the other hand, I wish that those in charge had some answers for what they are wreaking.

JLeslie's avatar

I just heard on TV that Israel is back at the table to negotiate a long pause or possibly a cease fire altogether.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I don’t think it’s a guarantee that flooding the tunnels with sea water will make the land uninhabitable. I would be surprised if that’s the case.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws “So if they render the land uninhabitable by choice” Go back and look at your earlier citation. The Palestinians have already destroyed their ground water. They are making the area uninhabitable all by themselves. The only clean water they have anymore is water the Israelis provide for them. Stop trying to lay all the blame on Israel. They are the ones that have been providing for the Palestinians while the Palestinians respond by attacking Israel. Grow up.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 You realize that the Palestinians were marched out of their homes at gunpoint after many massacres and into the West Bank and Gaza (which has been described as the world’s largest concentration camp by Baruch Kimmerling). Israel doesn’t get brownie points for allowing them some water and some food. We allowed the Japanese people to drink water and eat food when we rounded them up in Internment camps. We don’t deserve praise for such acts. Even Hitler supplied the Jews some food and water in the death camps, his legacy doesn’t deserve an * with a note of praise for his generosity in doing such things.

I really don’t think you have a fucking clue what you’re talking about.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Addressing the salinity only…

I live in Charleston SC. A nickname for the area in/and surrounding it is called “the low country.” Because we’re below or barely above sea level. The land is very flat too.
Point is, we are flooded with salt water, ALL the time. On a high tide, many places flood.
I can’t speak for Gazan soil, but our land is covered in thick green swamp. Our drinking water is fine (to my knowledge.)

When we get hurricanes, they bring the ocean with them, miles inland.
The world is like 70% salt water. I don’t think that’s a big deal, environmentally speaking.

I wonder about it’s efficacy though. People have been living underground for thousands of years. The tunnels are likely designed to deal with flooding.
The Israelis underestimated Hamas, because they dehumanized them. That’s the only reason Oct 7th happened. IDF thought it was too complicated, and ambitious.

Are they going to assume that they’re enemies built tunnels within meters of the sea, without thinking about flooding?..

The people who did this knew they would have nowhere to run.
Although dying for their cause doesn’t concern them, they can’t accomplish anything if they all die.
Or. Perhaps the plan is to show the world that Israel is the bad guy. That plan is working well.

There are no “right” answers here. Personally. I prefer water, over fire.

Demosthenes's avatar

@gorillapaws Ethnic cleansing apologetics gets tiring, doesn’t it?

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws You realize in 2005 Israeli settlers in Gaza were dragged out of their homes kicking, screaming, and crying, to give Gaza completely to the Palestinians. They wound up with Hamas in charge. Palestinians looted and destroyed greenhouses left behind by those Israelis (I think some of them were destroyed by Israelis too, but most were left intact when they left from what I have read).

Money has been given to Gaza to build. Many Israelis hoped the Gazans would prosper. That if they were prosperous they would want to live side by side in peace. Too many Palestinians don’t want that. They want to send rockets and blow up themselves to get more of Israel. When an operation happens (suicide bomber) the Palestinians give out candy. If they were peaceful they probably would have received even more help. They are not in prison, they can leave. They don’t want to leave, they don’t want to leave their land.

The whole thing is a mess. Jews can complain just as much as Palestinians about horrid things that have happened to them and having to leave their homes. I really do understand why Palestinians have a hard time letting go of having to leave their homes, but it’s a few generations back now.

God knows any of us can wind up in a country with tyrants in charge, I’m not saying all of the Palestinians somehow deserve what they get, because they are living under a corrupt government.

You have said before that Israel going back to the 1948 borders would be a help. What you don’t seem to realize is a huge number of Palestinians do not accept that as enough. They want Israel gone. Most of them don’t seem to say all Jews have to be gone, but they do say the entire area should be a Palestinian state. Most say the European Jews should go back to their countries even if they were born in Israel, which of course most were at this point.

It won’t be fixed how you think. I don’t think so anyway. As much as I want it too.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws You are dodging the point entirely. Did Israel put sewage and chemicals into the ground water in the Gaza? No…that was the Palestinians. The killed their groundwater until it was one little aquifer along the ocean, which they drained down so low there was no hydraulic pressure to keep salt water out. So it is no longer potable either. Israel did not do these things. So since the groundwater is already ruined by the Palestinians, isn’t worrying about some salt water in tunnels as an environmental threat to that same groundwater nothing more that once again blaming Israel?

Israel isn’t perfect and has done some shitty things over the years. But they have also done things like allow the Palestinians to elect their own leadership for the Gaza Strip. They elected radical Islamists whose charter calls for the genocide of all Israelis (yes, @Demosthenes ethnic cleansing apologists do get tiring.). I know you always try to avoid these facts. Look at this current situation. Why did the Palestinians attack Israel? Did Israel do something for which Palestine was retaliating? No. They just attacked. And they took hostages like all terrorists do. And you get mad because Israel gets tired of being attacked. Go back in history and you will find that most violence in that region was started by the Palestinians. Israel responds and then people like you say all the attacks were justified and that Israel is being unreasonable for retaliating.

And comparing Israel’s actions with supplying water to the Japanese internment camps is laughable. Israel did not round up Arabs in Israel and put them in the Gaza Strip, not letting them leave. They didn’t post guards around them to keep them there. They could leave whenever they want, if they want. The US did not allow the Japanese in these camps to govern themselves and to have all the same freedoms Palestinians enjoy. In fact, the Palestinians don’t want Israel even in the Strip. Yet they still came to make sure those that are always trying to kill them at least have water…a substance those same people ruined for themselves.

seawulf575's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I agree. I’m literally about 25’ above sea level. Many people in this area have wells that give out perfectly good water. But you will not convince @gorillapaws of that. He is certain that putting some salt water into tunnels will ruin the groundwater. It’s all part of the “Blame Israel for Everything” mindset he has. He won’t even agree that Palestine already ruined their own groundwater after he gave a citation that said it.

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