7 dead after Gaza tunnel collapses

  • 29/01/2016
7 dead after Gaza tunnel collapses

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

Seven Hamas gunmen have been killed after a tunnel collapsed close to the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel, the Islamist militant group's armed wing says.

It said the collapse occurred on Tuesday night (local time) as a result of heavy rain and it took two days to find the bodies and announce the deaths.

Mosques across the Palestinian enclave mourned those killed on Thursday, calling them "Martyrs of the Preparation", a reference to their work digging tunnels used to attack Israel.

"The Mujahedin martyrs were repairing an old tunnel, from which a number of operations were executed in the (2014) war," a statement issued by the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades said.

"The fathers of these martyrs should be proud. The whole world will witness the deeds of their tunnels against the (Israeli) occupier should they dare (to attack) our people and our land," it added.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, when it seized power after a brief civil war with the rival Fatah movement.

Hamas's armed wing is one of several militant groups that operate in the territory, which is blockaded by Israel and Egypt.

During July and August 2014, Israel fought a 50-day war against Hamas, with the militants making widespread use of deep tunnels to launch surprise attacks on Israeli forces. Israel heavily bombed the tunnels, but not all were destroyed.

As well as the seven militants killed in the tunnel collapse, Hamas's armed wing said four survived.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned about the rebuilding of the tunnels, with some politicians calling for pre-emptive action to neutralise the threat.