At least two Palestinians were killed in tunnels in the besieged Gaza Strip, sources said on Monday. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that one of its fighters, 22-year-old Ahmad Asaad Shihada al-Barim from the town of Khan Yunis, was killed when a “resistance tunnel” collapsed.
While al-Qassam did not specify where the tunnel was located, the use of the term “resistance tunnel” generally indicates tunnels between Gaza and Israel.
Separately, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) site said on Monday that a worker had been killed when Egyptian forces flooded a smuggling tunnel between the North African country and the blockaded Palestinian enclave. PIC identified the Palestinian worker as Mumin Abu Hamid.
— Palestine Info Center (@palinfoen) February 13, 2017
A number of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below the besieged enclave, which are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north.
In April and May last year, Israeli forces claimed to have uncovered the first two tunnels crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Israel’s devastating offensive on Gaza in 2014.
While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons from the south, they also supply highly demanded necessities for Gazans — who have been trapped under Israeli siege for a decade — including food, medicine, and much-needed infrastructure materials.
— Raimo Kangasniemi (@rk70534) February 13, 2017
Since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi came to power in a military coup in 2013, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.
The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas authorities had counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since the Israeli blockade began in 2007, and in August 2014, Al-Jazeera reported that figure to be as high as 400.
The destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years, including damage to the enclave’s water, sanitation, energy, and medical facilities, coupled with slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.The majority of the nearly two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to the continuation of the military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.
(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)