IDF confirms Project Atlantis – the flooding of Hamas tunnels

It is considered a technological and engineering breakthrough in thwarting this huge underground threat.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The IDF formally confirmed Tuesday its Project Atlantis, Israel’s deliberate and ongoing flooding of Hamas terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

Working together with the Defense Ministry and other bodies, the IDF has acquired “new capabilities during the war, with the aim of neutralizing underground terrorist infrastructure, including by channeling large volumes of water into them,” its statement said.

It is considered a technological and engineering “breakthrough,” one that took months of careful planning and then training of the mission’s specialized operatives, the army stated.

It is not a tactic that can be used wholesale, however.

Easy access to the Mediterranean Sea is a must, for one, meaning that the vast array of tunnels further from the coast have to be destroyed in more conventional ways, such as by physically laying explosives or bombing them from the air.

Another constraining factor is that “The IDF takes into consideration the soil and water systems in the area, matching the method of operation to each specific case,” the statement added.

This is a reference to the danger of environmental damage, such as contamination of the underground natural reservoirs in Gaza, which are the main sources by far of drinking water for the population. Farmland could also be put in jeopardy, as when Egypt flooded smuggling tunnels that crossed from under its territory into Gaza in 2015 and the Palestinians protested that the seawater was destroying their crops.

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The statement did not mention how many tunnels have been destroyed using this method.

Israeli estimations of how large the tunnel system is throughout Gaza has steadily risen as more is discovered during the IDF’s steady progression through its cities and so-called refugee camps. The underground “metro” is now thought to be larger than London’s entire subway system, some 350-450 miles long.

Citing unnamed American and Israeli officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the IDF has so far managed to destroy or damage between 20-40% of the underground passages.

Hamas terrorists use the tunnels to move safely from place to place and pop out to ambush troops. They are also command and control centers, warehouses for weaponry, explosives, fuel and food, and rocket manufacturing sites.

It is widely believed that the Hamas leadership permanently hides underground surrounded by most, if not all, of the 136 hostages that the terror organization is still holding, including over two dozen who have already died due to lack of medical care or were murdered in captivity.

Last month, the army had corroborated a report in The Wall Street Journal that had revealed the start of the seawater pumping plan in the northern section of the coastal enclave. IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told the press at the time that only tunnels that were known to be free of hostages were being flooded.