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Hamas terrorist dies in Gaza tunnel collapse, latest in series of incidents

Terror group’s military wing says fighter ‘martyred in resistance tunnel’; IDF preparing for possible escalation in Jerusalem and West Bank

A picture taken in January 2018 of a destroyed Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel, leading from Gaza into Israel, near the southern Israeli kibbutz of Kissufim. (Jack Guez/AFP/POOL)
Illustrative: A picture taken in January 2018 of a destroyed Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel, leading from Gaza into Israel, near the southern Israeli kibbutz of Kissufim. (Jack Guez/AFP/POOL)

A Hamas terrorist was killed Wednesday when an offensive tunnel collapsed on him, the Gaza-based group said.

Hamas named the terrorist as Muhammad Ashraf Abed, 24, from the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the terror group’s military wing, said he was “martyred after the collapse of a resistance tunnel.”

Several Hamas terrorists have reportedly died in recent months while working inside the tunnels, primarily built in sand, due to heavy rains that have led to their collapse.

During the 11-day conflict between Israel and terror groups in Gaza last May, the Israel Defense Forces carried out extensive airstrikes against an underground tunnel network which the army described as a system of Hamas bunkers, tunnels, underground command centers and weapons caches under the Gaza Strip.

The IDF claimed that it managed to destroy a significant portion of the network during the campaign, a claim that Hamas rejected.

Palestinians pray by the bodies of members of the Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group who died in an Israeli bombardment of a tunnel, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 21, 2021. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

In November, Maj. Avichai Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic spokesman, warned residents of Gaza of the issue, imploring them to stay away from the tunnels due to landslides in the area, which he said were the likely result of the destruction of the underground system.

“According to estimates, the cause of these collapses is linked to the underground system of Hamas,” he wrote in Arabic.

“These events are the latest example, but not the only one, of Hamas’s absurd use of civilian areas. It is unpredictable when the earth will shake again under the feet of the Gazans because of this blatant exploitation that the local population pays for time and again,” he stated.

In December, the Defense Ministry announced that a 65-kilometer underground barrier constructed to deal with the threat of cross-border tunnels originating in Gaza had been completed.

An Israeli soldier stands guard during a ceremony opening the newly completed barrier above and below the Israel-Gaza border, December 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Wednesday’s tunnel collapse came as Hamas has sought to stoke rising tensions in Jerusalem.

Clashes between Jews and Palestinians in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in recent days have sparked fears of more widespread violence. Attempted evictions in the neighborhood contributed to the outbreak of last year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as tensions surrounding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir has added fuel to the flames by appearing in the neighborhood to protest alleged police neglect of Israeli residents there, after a Jewish home was firebombed. Ben Gvir played a part in stoking tensions in the neighborhood ahead of last year’s war.

Hamas warned of a “severe” response should Israel continue its “assaults” in East Jerusalem, a spokesperson for the terror group said.

“We call upon our people to support the people of Jerusalem by clashing with the occupation at friction points,” Mohammad Hamadeh told official Hamas television, possibly referring to West Bank locations where Palestinians frequently clash with Israeli troops.

This April will also again see a confluence of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Christian holiday of Easter, leading to fears of possible conflict. The Biden administration has urged Israel to take preemptive actions and prevent similar violence.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday that the IDF is preparing for a possible escalation in Jerusalem and the West Bank due to upcoming holidays and Sheikh Jarrah.

“The incendiary materials are in place already. All that’s missing is a match,” a West Bank IDF commander said.

Channels 12 and 13 said the military plans to bolster its troop presence in Jerusalem this Friday ahead of Muslim prayers in the capital.

Hamas has also looked abroad by attempting to target Israeli citizens.

On Tuesday, the Philippine National Police said it had uncovered a Hamas cell that planned to target Israelis in the country, with a top foreign operations member of the terror group aiming to recruit locals to carry out the attacks.

A police statement about the operation, reported by local media, did not say if any arrests were made in the case.

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