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Palestinian dies inside Rafah tunnel

April 21, 2015 8:00 P.M. (Updated: April 22, 2015 11:03 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian youth died from an electric shock he received inside a tunnel in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, medical sources said.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said that Ahmad Majed Salim al-Saqqa, 19, from the al-Qarrara neighborhood in Khan Younis, was pronounced dead as his body arrived at Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in the city.

Another Palestinian from Khan Younis, Ibrahim Fathi Isleih, 21, died last week after he too received an electric shock inside a Rafah tunnel.

Smuggling tunnels that pass beneath the Egyptian border have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007, which is supported by Egypt.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

At the the tunnel economy's height, in 2010, the Peace Research Institute Oslo estimated that as many as 15,000 workers and 25,000 traders were involved in the Gazan tunnel economy, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated in 2012 that almost four times more construction material was reaching Gaza through tunnels than through Israeli crossings.

However, the industry has declined since 2013 as both Egyptian and Israeli armies bombarded and destroyed the tunnel networks.

The Egyptian army said last week that they had destroyed 285 tunnels since February.

Egypt has sought to destroy the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel, which Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting.

Hamas strongly denies the accusations.

The smuggling tunnels are notoriously dangerous, and workers are frequently killed working inside them.

The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas authorities had counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since the Israeli blockade began.

In August 2014, at the height of an Israeli offensive on the coastal enclave -- which gave the destruction of tunnels given as one of the key objectives -- Al-Jazeera reported that 400 workers had died inside the tunnels since 2007.
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