An officer in the Hamas security forces and a Palestinian civilian died late Sunday after inhaling poisonous gas inside a tunnel along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Iyad al-Bozm, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the coastal enclave said in a statement on Monday.
Bozm, whose ministry is run by the terror group, said the officer was on “a security mission to inspect the tunnel,” but did not state clearly what the civilian was doing in it.
He did not comment on the origin of the substance, but a Palestinian security source said the Egyptian military has used gas to halt the use of illegal tunnels it finds along the border.
The Egyptian army could not be reached for comment Monday, but in 2010 Cairo denied similar charges after the deaths of four Palestinians in a border tunnel.
Egypt has demolished hundreds of tunnels between its territory and Gaza in the past several years, but smugglers of commercial goods and weapons are still believed to operate a number of subterranean passageways there.
In February 2017, three Palestinians died from inhaling toxic gas in a tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, which they were repairing after the Egyptian military blew it up, Palestinian authorities said at the time.
Bozm said that the members of the Hamas-run Civil Defense succeeded in extracting the bodies of the officer and the civilian from the tunnel.
He also noted that two other members of the security forces were rescued and transferred to a local hospital for treatment, but he did not say if they were in the tunnel or who saved them.
The ministry spokesman identified the officer as 39-year-old Abdel Hamid al-Aker and the civilian as 28-year-old Subhi Abu Qirshein. He said Aker held the rank of major.
A video posted on Quds News Network, a Palestinian news site, appeared to show the bodies of Aker and Abu Qirshein arriving at a hospital in the coastal enclave.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.
Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli Navy arrested a Palestinian man who attempted to swim into Israel from Gaza, the army said. The man was spotted as he approached the coastal enclave’s northern maritime border with the Jewish state; the navy captured him shortly after he crossed into Israeli waters, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
He was unarmed and was handed over to the Shin Bet security service for further questioning, the IDF said. The man will likely be returned to Gaza in the coming days, as are most Palestinians who attempt to flee the Strip.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.