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Envoy: Egypt 'not responsible' for tunnel deaths

Sept. 28, 2011 7:02 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 30, 2011 12:02 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, said Wednesday that Egypt is not responsible for the recent deaths of three Palestinians in smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Othman said the deaths were very unfortunate, but Egypt is not responsible as it follows clear safety procedures when sealing off smuggling tunnels, which are "harmful to Egyptian national security," he told Ma'an.

The deaths were caused by “the absence of safety and security means within the tunnels, high risk in this profession, as well as the high rate of child labor involved in these tunnels which makes it more dangerous,” he said.

Three Palestinians were pronounced dead on Tuesday morning after Egyptian authorities pumped sewage inside a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza border on Sunday, medics had said.

Egyptian security officials said in early September that they were cracking down on the network of tunnels used by smugglers from the coastal enclave.

Including Tuesday's victims, eight Palestinians have been killed while working in tunnels in September. Five Palestinians were killed in three separate tunnel collapses earlier this month.

Medics say over 160 Palestinians have died in the network of underground tunnels since Israel imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip in 2006.
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