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Israel floods Hamas tunnels

Israel’s army has begun flooding Hamas’s network of tunnels as intense fighting rages in Gaza, with the UN warning of the potential “collapse of the…

Israel’s army has begun flooding Hamas’s network of tunnels as intense fighting rages in Gaza, with the UN warning of the potential “collapse of the humanitarian system” in the territory after a funding row hit its Palestinian aid agency.

The epicentre of the fighting in recent weeks has been Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s main city, where vast areas have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings, and where an AFP journalist witnessed people leaving town on Tuesday as explosions sounded nearby.

“We left the Nasser hospital without any mattresses, under tank and air strikes. We didn’t know where to go,” said one young woman.

“We’re out in the cold, left to fend for ourselves, with no tents and nothing to survive on.”

Elsewhere in the city, Israeli troops gave journalists a tour of a tunnel they said had been used as a Hamas command centre.

“Every war has its own characteristics, and I think that this war, its basic character is about that over- and underground manoeuvre,” Dan Goldfus, commander of the 98th Paratroopers Division, told reporters outside of the shaft.

“I think the enemy is on the run and is trying to put itself under the civilians as much as it can,” he added.

The Israeli military, which has dubbed the vast network of tunnels “the Gaza metro”, said Tuesday that it had begun flooding the underground complexes with water in a bid to “neutralise the threat of Hamas’ subterranean network”.

The war was touched off by Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

About 250 foreign and Israeli hostages were also dragged to Gaza during the October 7 attack, of whom around 132 are still there. That figure includes the bodies of at least 28 people believed to have been killed.

Following the Hamas attack, Israel launched a withering air, land and sea offensive in Gaza that has killed at least 26,751 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The war has displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s population, according to the UN, which warned the humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory would only get worse if major donors didn’t restore funding to UNRWA, its main aid agency for Palestinians.

Israel has alleged that several agency staff members took part in the October 7 attacks, leading key donor countries including the United States and Germany to suspend funding.

The UN’s coordinator for Gaza aid, Sigrid Kaag, said Tuesday that no other agency could “replace or substitute” UNRWA, which has thousands of employees.

The heads of several UN agencies, including the WHO, the UN rights office, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, later issued a statement warning that defunding UNRWA would “have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza”.