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Israel pumping seawater into Hamas tunnels: Source

Updated December 12, 2023 - 4:55 pm

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israel has begun flooding some Hamas tunnels, a U.S. official confirmed Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the action.

Israelis said they are testing the targeted flooding of tunnels on a limited basis and are exploring the idea as one of a range of options to degrade the tunnel network, according to another U.S. official familiar with the matter.

President Joe Biden said during a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that there were assertions that no hostages were in Gaza tunnels being flooded with seawater by the Israelis, but “I don’t know that for a fact.”

Meanwhile, Israeli forces carried out strikes across Gaza on Tuesday as the military pressed ahead with an offensive that officials say could go on for weeks or months.

Israel launched the campaign after Hamas and other terrorists streamed into the south on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking about 240 others hostage, of whom about half remain in captivity. At least 105 Israeli soldiers have died in the retaliatory Gaza ground offensive, the army says.

With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 18,000, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Strikes overnight and into Tuesday in southern Gaza killed dozens, according to hospital records.

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, Israeli forces stormed the Kamal Adwan Hospital, ordering all men into the courtyard, said Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry.

The Israeli military says it is rounding up men in northern Gaza as it searches for Hamas fighters.

Asked about the hospital, the military said it “continues to act against Hamas strongholds in the north of Gaza,” including Beit Lahia and takes “all feasible precautions to mitigate harm to noncombatants.”

Israel blames civilian casualties on Hamas, saying it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in dense urban areas, using civilians as human shields.

The U.N. secretary-general and Arab states have rallied much of the international community behind calls for an immediate cease-fire. But the U.S. vetoed those efforts at the U.N. Security Council last week as it rushed tank munitions to Israel to allow it to maintain the offensive.

Israel and the U.S. argue that any cease-fire that leaves Hamas in power, even over a small part of the territory, would mean victory for the terrorist group, which has governed Gaza since 2007 and has pledged to destroy Israel.

Israeli officials have said some 7,000 Hamas terrorists — roughly one-quarter of the group’s estimated fighting force — have been killed and that 500 terrorists have been detained in Gaza over the past month. Hamas says it still has thousands of reserve fighters.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah, meanwhile, has repeatedly traded fire with Israel, and other Iran-backed groups across the region have attacked U.S. targets, threatening to widen the conflict.


Shurafa reported from Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, and Magdy from Cairo. Associated Press writers Jack Jeffery in Cairo and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed.

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