World Bulletin / News Desk
According to a report in Middle East Monitor sea water is being pumped by the Egyptian army in order to “destroy the smuggling tunnels” which are apparently used by rebels in order to attack Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. Such tunnels are, in fact, known widely as Gaza’s “lifeline”, used to smuggle basic necessities in order to break the Israeli-led siege of the enclave since 2007.
Abdul-Rahman Ali, a member of the Palestinian National Service movement, serves in one of the security bases scattered along the border. He described how he was surprised when he saw the seawater coming out of the ground.
“The first time I saw this was about five weeks ago,” Ali told me. “I was patrolling the border with two of my colleagues. Suddenly, we saw water coming out from the ground like a spring. We were shocked.”
When they got closer, he explained, they tasted it and realised that it wasn’t fresh spring water. He hadn’t heard about the Egyptian installation of the pipes for the purpose of flooding the tunnels.
“I contacted the operation room, informed them about the situation and they contacted water and soil experts who came to the area. We were all surprised to see these ‘springs’ in other places as well.”
Some tunnel owners suspect that the flooding can potentially lead to landslides.
Engineer Usama Abu-Nqirah, the Director of the Environment and Hygiene Department in the municipality of Rafah, has similar concerns. He said that there were a number of landslides and warned of more if the seawater continues to be pumped in.
“There were only a couple of landslides, but there are dozens of cracks along the border and the ground is expected to subside, making huge holes if more and more water is used,” he explained. Abu-Nqirah also warned that soil instability jeopardises residential buildings in the area as there is a lot of subsidence just metres away from a large building in the city.
Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since mid-2007, has repeatedly requested Egypt to stop pumping the soil with the saltwater. The high level of salt damages the natural aquifers, which are already depleted and polluted by the Israeli occupation. “The Palestinian aquifers are depleted by the Israelis, who dig wells thousands of metres deeper than ours,” said Abu-Nqirah. “They steal our fresh water and seawater slowly seeps in to take its place.”
However, the Egyptians insist that this is essential to protect their national security. During his visit to Cairo last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists that he is aware of all Egyptian measures taken on the Gaza border.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Kasım 2015, 12:24