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Environmentalists: Gaza’s Water, Farmland ‘Will Be Unusable’ if IDF Floods Tunnels With Seawater

© AP Photo / Adel HanaA farmer carries a bundle of wheat crop harvested from his family farm along the Gaza strip border with Israel, in the village of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 20, 2022.
A farmer carries a bundle of wheat crop harvested from his family farm along the Gaza strip border with Israel, in the village of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 20, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2023
Gaza’s fragile ecosystem could be permanently damaged by a huge influx of salty seawater like that which Israel is considering pumping into the city, experts said. Some of the deepest tunnels dug by Hamas and other militant groups could be near groundwater depths, souring the area’s drinking water.
According to reports in US media on Tuesday, Israel has pushed ahead with plans to flood Gaza City with seawater in an attempt to destroy the network of tunnels dug beneath the city by Palestinian militant groups.
According to the report, the IDF finished assembling five massive seawater pumps north of the Al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip in mid-November. The plan is reportedly to flood the tunnels slowly over several weeks, giving Palestinian fighters and their Israeli captives time to safely evacuate.
The report was unclear about the disposition of the White House toward the plan. The Biden administration has largely supported Israel’s actions in Gaza as self-defense against Hamas, but given rhetorical warning against violating Palestinian human rights. The warnings have had little effect, though, as nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by IDF bombing and ground operations since Hamas attacked several Israeli border towns in early October, killing some 1,200 people.
Andrey Frolov, co-chair of Moscow’s Environmental Organizations, told Sputnik on Tuesday that an influx of salty seawater could wreck Gaza’s fragile ecosystem, making it difficult to sustain life there.
“When water comes in, it all depends of course, depending on the scale of the disaster. That is, what kind of tunnels are they, where are they laid and what is their size. Because the first thing that immediately catches your eye is that if the tunnels are shallow, say, two to three meters deep, then this will simply undermine the foundations of buildings. When moisture enters, the stability of the soil changes, subsidence begins, and accordingly, it will just begin [to collapse]. Israel has already destroyed the entire city, so I think that for them it is not important.”
“There is information that these tunnels are hundreds of square kilometers in size and go to a depth of up to 80 meters,” he noted, adding that it was probably “a bit of an exaggeration.”
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Frolov noted “it depends on the waters” how the influx of salty seawater would affect the fresh groundwater. Some of the deepest tunnels rumored to have been dug in Gaza could be near the depths of the aquifers.
“Because seawater can get into these aquifers it will make them salty. As a result, those wells that were used in Gaza will simply stop working. The territory was already short on water, Israel supplied water from the Sea of ​​Galilee. If a large amount of sea water is pumped into it, it will simply become unusable.”
He noted the salt will also impact agriculture in Gaza, making it “so that any kind of farming or maintaining green spaces will simply be impossible.”
“Our nature lives in biocenosis. That is, it is a complex of living beings that adapt to a certain habitat. If the biocenosis is salted and the living conditions are changed, then some species simply will not be able to live there. And if one, two, three species stop living, then the entire biocenosis crumbles,” he explained.
Sergei Mukhametov, a senior lecturer at oceanology and chair of the geographical faculty at Lomonosov Moscow State University, told Sputnik that the amount of salt from the operation would be a smaller danger to the population than Israel’s bombing campaign.
“I don’t think that anything terrible will happen there. The volumes for the sea and ocean [water] are very small. And sand is not a pollutant in this case,” he said.
“Yes, there will be salinization [of groundwater] if they fill [the tunnels] with seawater, there will be soil salinization,” he said.
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“Well, it’s more likely that they suffer there because of these monstrous bombings … If we compare the consequences [of bombing] and the environmental ones, the direct impacts are monstrous. And ecology comes second or even in third place.”
When it came to the flooding of the tunnels, Mukhametov noted it wasn’t the first time such an operation had been carried out.
“When we took Berlin [in 1945], our troops there also broke through the Berlin metro, and the Germans also flooded it in the hope of stopping us, regardless of the civilians who were also hiding there.”
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