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8 Dec, 2023 19:01

Flooding Gaza would be war crime – Russia

Moscow’s envoy at the UN has called out an Israeli plan to pump seawater into the Palestinian enclave
Flooding Gaza would be war crime – Russia

If Israel is truly considering flooding the “Hamas tunnels” under Gaza with seawater, this would be a clear-cut atrocity, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said at the Security Council meeting on Friday.

China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates called for the emergency session, given the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian enclave after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) resumed military operations at the start of December.

“In recent days, shocking information has spread about Israeli plans to flood underground structures in the Gaza Strip with seawater,” Polyansky told the council. “According to publicly available information, the IDF has already built a system of pipes and pumps designed to pump seawater, and is currently discussing with the United States the practical possibility of such flooding: will there be enough water, will the ‘topography’ of the tunnels allow it, and so on.”

Such a step, if taken, would constitute a clear war crime.

Polyansky explained that the flooding would be indiscriminate and the equivalent of ordering “take no prisoners,” while the sea water would contaminate the groundwater in Gaza and make the area uninhabitable.

Documents published in mid-October suggest that the Israeli authorities would like to displace all of Gaza’s Palestinian population into Egypt. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas after the Gaza-based militant group raided nearby Israeli settlements on October 7, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking scores hostage. Since then, more than 16,000 Palestinians have died in Israeli operations in Gaza.

After a week-long “humanitarian pause” at the end of November, Israel has launched a “more brutal and bloody phase” of its operation, Polyansky told the UN, with the scale of destruction indicating “indiscriminate” use of force and striking of targets considered protected by humanitarian law.

“The brutal Hamas raid on October 7 cannot justify Israeli crimes against humanity,” the Russian diplomat argued. “Failure to respect humanitarian law by one side does not relieve the other from the same obligations.”

Polyansky added that he doubted the International Criminal Court would do anything, as it will not act “against its Western masters.” The ICC is likely to “forgive” Israel just as it turned a blind eye to Western atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, he added.

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