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Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah

Feb. 19, 2015 5:51 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2015 12:32 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday.

The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The brigades said in a statement that "Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission," without providing further details.

However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels.

Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt.

A spokesman for the Gaza Strip's civil defense forces, Muhammad al-Midana, identified the victim as 19-year-old Abd al-Majid Othman.

The ministry said he was from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

The smuggling industry grew in the Gaza Strip after Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave after the Hamas movement took over in 2007.

The tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants, as imports and exports are almost completely restricts by Israel with Egyptian collaboration.

However, the industry has recently declined since summer 2013 as the Egyptian and Israeli armies bombarded and destroyed most of the smuggling tunnels.

The Egyptian army started to crackdown against Gaza smuggling tunnels after a series of attacks against military police forces in Sinai following the ousting of elected president Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have denied any links to the attacks, but Egypt has continued to sanction both groups.
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