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Egypt floods Gaza tunnel, 7 workers rescued, 1 missing

March 10, 2016 12:03 P.M. (Updated: March 11, 2016 5:33 P.M.)
Palestinians stand in a pool of water next to the entrance of tunnels, used for smuggling supplies between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in Rafah, in southern Gaza on September 18, 2015. (AFP/Said Khatib, File)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Seven Palestinians were rescued during a search operation in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah city on Thursday after Egyptian authorities allegedly flooded a tunnel where workers were present, Palestinian security sources said.

While seven workers were rescued, Gazan authorities are still looking for one more worker thought to be stuck inside the tunnel.

Palestinian security sources said the tunnel was flooded when Egyptian authorities pumped seawater into the structure.

Last month, Egyptian authorities destroyed another tunnel on the border of the Gaza Strip, with no injuries reported.

Palestinians in Gaza have relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border since 2007 when Israel imposed a military blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas took control there.

The tunnels have since provided a vital lifeline for the besieged territory's more than 1.8 million residents.

However, Egypt has destroyed and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.

Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting the insurgents, allegations Hamas strongly denies.

Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli media early last month that a number of tunnels had been flooded at Israel's request, adding that relations between Egypt and Israel were "better than ever."

Human Rights Watch last year slammed Egypt's military for its campaign against the tunnels, during which the group said some 3,200 families had been evicted from their homes near the border and hundreds of acres of farmland destroyed.

The group said Egypt had failed to provide adequate proof that insurgents were receiving support from Gaza.

The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remained partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

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