Palestinian man killed when Gaza smuggling tunnel caves in
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Palestinian man killed when Gaza smuggling tunnel caves in

Egyptian official said to complain after Israeli minister boasts Jerusalem urged Cairo to flood cross-border tunnels

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian man was killed early Monday morning when a tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border collapsed.

Eyewitnesses told the Safa news agency that the victim, 24, was a resident of the town of Khirbet Ades, north of Rafah, and that the tunnel was for the purpose of smuggling goods into the Strip.

The tunnel’s entrance was located in the Al-Shaout neighborhood of Rafah from where it ran under the Egyptian border less than 250 meters away, the report said.

According to locals, the man was repairing the tunnel, which had been damaged by Egyptian authorities, when a mass of sand caved in on him.

Past weeks have seen at least five separate tunnel collapses in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian reports, and Tuesday’s incident marks the tenth death. In the previous cave-ins, the victims were identified as members of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian enclave .

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed Saturday that the Egyptian military had flooded several smuggling tunnels beneath the Strip’s southern border at Jerusalem’s request.

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

Speaking at an event in Beersheba, Steinitz stated that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had destroyed numerous tunnels built by Hamas, including last October, on Israel’s behalf.

“Some Hamas tunnels were flooded, to a certain extent at our request,” Steinitz said, according to Ynet. “Flooding is a good solution in that realm.”

The energy minister added that security coordination between Israel and Egypt was “better than ever.”

A senior official in the Egyptian foreign ministry called the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, Haim Koren, to voice his objection to Steinitz’s remarks, the London-based news site al-Araby al-Jadeed reported.

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 18, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 18, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Since September last year, the Egyptian military has periodically pumped sea water into the underground cross-border tunnels dug between its Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip in a campaign to stamp out smuggling.

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