Despite possessing overwhelming military superiority, Israel is struggling to develop an effective strategy to address the extensive tunnel network under Gaza.
This intricate web of tunnels significantly hampers the impact of Israel's advanced military capabilities, providing protective cover and tactical advantages to Hamas and other combatants.
After considering various methods to confront this challenge, the Israeli army recently decided to initiate a pilot programme involving the infusion of seawater into the underground tunnel system. This unconventional military strategy aims to dismantle Hamas's complex subterranean network, forcing the group's operatives to the surface.
While the effectiveness of this unorthodox approach remains uncertain, it has raised serious concerns about potential long-term environmental repercussions.
There is apprehension surrounding the potential contamination of Gaza's subterranean water and soil resulting from the introduction of seawater and hazardous substances from the tunnels. Additionally, there are fears about the prospective impact on the already fragile infrastructures within these enclaves.
Originally excavated in the early 1980s to bypass the border between Egypt and Rafah, the Gaza tunnel network initially functioned as a pathway for illegal trade and weapons smuggling. Over time, its purposes expanded to include defensive and offensive functions.
The defensive aspect primarily encompasses storing weapons and logistical supplies (fuel, water, and food) and establishing command and control headquarters.
In contrast, the offensive function involves an intricate network of tunnels extending into Israel, enabling small-scale offensive actions and hostage abductions.