picture taken with a fisheye lens on 18 January 2018 from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip shows a tunnel that Israel says was dug by the Islamic Jihad group leading from the Palestinian enclave into Israel, near southern Israeli kibbutz of Kissufim. Israel uncovered and destroyed the tunnel in late October. EPA-EFE/JACK GUEZ


Russia says if Israel floods tunnels in Gaza it would constitute a ‘war crime’


Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy has denounced Israel’s apparent plans to flood tunnels in the Gaza Strip, saying it would be a “war crime” to do so.

Israel is said to be contemplating filling with water what it says is an extensive underground network allegedly used by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in a bid to “flush them out”.

Russia is warning against such plans.

“War crimes are snowballing – shocking reports have been circulated in recent days that Israel plans to flood underground facilities in the Gaza Strip with seawater,” Polyanskiy said on December 9.

“According to open sources, the Israel Defence Forces has already built a system of pumps and pipes to pump seawater and is currently discussing with the United States practical aspects of such flooding: whether there will be enough water or if the tunnels’ ‘topography’ is fit for that and so on. Such a step, if made, will constitute a blatant war crime.

Polyanskiy continued: “Hailing this ‘brilliant tactical solution’, the Western-biased mass media don’t even try to think about the potential consequences of pumping thousands of cubic meters of seawater, ie salt water, into the soil.

“Obviously, it is a real plan of action to undermine the enclave’s fragile agricultural capacities, because seawater will inevitably contaminate Gaza’s subsoil waters,” he concluded.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story of the apparent flooding strategy. Media reports state that Israel and the US are debating the practical ramifications of such action, which if implemented may put at risk the water supply in the besieged territory, observers say.

Israel has reportedly already made the necessary preparations. In mid-November, a system of pumps was said to have been installed by the Israeli army about 1km from the Al-Shati Palestinian refugee camp, close to the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Gaza

The tunnel network could likely be completely inundated in a couple of weeks if each pump were to release thousands of cubic meters of seawater into the system every hour, according to experts.

It is currently unclear if any of the remaining Israeli hostages taken by Hamas are held in those tunnels.

Russia’s warnings about a potential flooding of the network came a day after the US vetoed a resolution from the UN Security Council demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in response to Israel’s offensive.

Polyanskiy added that Moscow was “deeply disappointed” that the UN council had not passed a legally binding resolution requiring the parties to put an end to their hostilities, instead simply “urging” them to do so.

Russia has denounced Israel’s actions in Gaza since the Hamas attacks on October 7 multiple times.

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially referred to the terrorists’ actions in Israel as a “clear example of the failed policy in the Middle East of the United States”.

Experts believe the Kremlin is taking advantage of the unrest because it diverts attention from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv’s calls for more arms and other support have also been undermined by the Gaza conflict as the US is forced to shift its focus and at least part of its weapon supplies.

Speaking online at the ongoing 21st Doha Forum in Qatar, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the West’s “500-year domination of the world” was coming to an end.

He added that, due to its war in Ukraine, his country has become stronger – just as it did by defeating Hitler and Napoleon.