Islamic Jihad fighter killed in Gaza tunnel collapse
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Islamic Jihad fighter killed in Gaza tunnel collapse

Cave-in reportedly 13th incident in Strip since beginning of year, with 17 people killed; Israel warns Palestinian groups trying to rebuild underground system

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Gunmen from  Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades, squat in a tunnel used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in preparation for the next conflict with Israel, as they take part in military training in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Gunmen from Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades, squat in a tunnel used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in preparation for the next conflict with Israel, as they take part in military training in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

One person was killed as a tunnel being dug in the Gaza Strip collapsed Sunday morning, according to Palestinian reports.

Hamas’s al Aqsa TV station confirmed one man had died when a tunnel collapsed in the northern Gaza Strip.

He was named as 28-year-old Ibrahim Hussein al-Masri.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group said on its website that Masri was a member of the al-Quds Brigades, the group’s armed wing.

The collapsed tunnel was the 13th reported incident of its kind since the beginning of the year.

At least 17 people, most of them reportedly members of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have been killed in the collapses.

It is not clear what is causing the collapse of many of the tunnels, which serve a variety of purposes, from smuggling goods and firearms from the Sinai Peninsula to carrying out terror attacks against Israeli towns near the Gaza border.

Israeli officials have warned that Hamas, a terror group which rules the Strip and is sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction, has begun rebuilding its network of subterranean tunnels, some of which could extend into Israeli territory and be used for surprise attacks, as they were in 2014.

Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel discovered by the IDF running under the Gaza border into Israel on May 5, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

 

Since April, the IDF has discovered two tunnels leading into Israeli territory, and the Shin Bet says it has captured a number of Gazans who have given them extensive information on the tunnel system.

When asked in March if Israeli forces were causing a rash of tunnel collapses earlier this year, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai only offered, “God knows.”

Israeli officials have linked many of the recent tunnel collapses to Hamas’s shortage of materials such as wood and cement, needed to strengthen walls of sand.

Palestinian fighters from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades pray near the bodies of seven colleagues killed while repairing a tunnel, during their funeral at a mosque in Gaza City, on January 29, 2016. Photo by Emad Nassar/Flash90
Palestinian fighters from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades pray near the bodies of seven colleagues killed while repairing a tunnel, during their funeral at a mosque in Gaza City, on January 29, 2016. Photo by Emad Nassar/Flash90

Hamas has apparently been using fiberglass instead — despite Israel’s prohibition of its entry into the enclave — a material that has proven to be too weak to support the weight of the sand, Israeli sources told the Hebrew news site Ynet.

An Israeli blockade designed to keep weapons and other military infrastructure from entering the Strip severely restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of the territory, and Egypt’s sole border with Gaza has also remained largely closed since 2013 over Egyptian claims that Hamas has supported the Muslim Brotherhood and an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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