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Death toll in Rafah tunnel collapse reaches six

July 27, 2009 9:35 P.M. (Updated: July 28, 2009 3:13 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Medics on Monday evening pulled out two more bodies from rubble left behind by a tunnel collapse between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip in Rafah the day before.

The death toll officially rose to six after ambulance workers and fireman identified the bodies of Issa Muhammad Al-Qisy, 24, and Tamer Sayyid Saraj, 21.

Medics on Monday morning had found three bodies under the collapsed tunnel, said to be caused by a fire set off by leaking fuel on Sunday afternoon. Muawiyah Hassanein, director of Ambulance and Emergency Services at the Gaza Health Ministry, identified three victims as 20-year-old Yousif Mu’ammar, 23-year-old Tariq Qishta, and 36-year-old Muhammad Al-Maghari.

Medics identified one victim on Sunday afternoon, 33-year-old Sami Qishta, who was found shortly after the collapse. All the victims were from Rafah, Hassanein said. Two unnamed men who sustained moderate burns were hospitalized, another medic said.

The tunnel industry is notoriously dangerous, and dozens of workers are killed each year in workplace accidents. Above the regular collapse of the sandy tunnels, Israeli and Egyptian border police routinely bomb access points or flood the passages with water or fuel. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed in tunnel incidents since the siege on Gaza began in 2007.

Last Monday two young Gazans were killed and eight others injured when benzene, which was being smuggled through via long pipes, began to leak into the underground area. Four workers were injured when one of the tunnels collapsed two weeks earlier.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a near-total blockade of the Strip by land and sea since June 2007, and the quantities and types of goods allowed into Gaza are subject to tight restrictions. Exports are also prohibited, and Gaza's 1.5 million residents are banned from traveling.
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