A Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror operative was killed in the Gaza Strip Monday night when a tunnel used by the group collapsed east of the town of Khan Yunis, according to various media reports.
Two more operatives were said injured in the tunnel mishap. It was not clear whether the structure was an attack tunnel leading towards Israel or another type of infrastruture used by the terror organization.
It was the second deadly tunnel collapse for the group this month and the 14th such incident reported since the beginning of the year. On July 10 a man was killed as an underground passageway being dug in northern Gaza collapsed.
Islamic Jihad said on its website that 28-year-old Ibrahim Hussein al-Masri was a member of the al-Quds Brigades, the group’s armed wing.
At least 18 people, most of them reportedly members of Hamas, have been killed in this year’s 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.
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.
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.
Dov Lieber contributed to this report.