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4 Palestinians found dead after Egypt floods Gaza tunnel

Dec. 4, 2016 4:38 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 5, 2016 1:55 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Palestinian Civil Defense workers recovered the bodies of four Palestinians between Saturday night and Sunday morning, after they went missing when a tunnel collapsed on them last week.

The Palestinian Civil Defense in Gaza said the tunnel collapsed after Egyptian authorities deliberately flooded it with seawater, launching an immediate search operation for four men who were reported missing.

A statement from the civil defense identified the men as Ali Badawi, 43, Muhammad Badawi, 21, Imad Badawi, 24, and Sami al-Tawil, 30, all residents of the Gaza Strip. However, some reports from Israeli media said only three bodies were recovered, while a fourth remained missing.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in tunnels connecting the besieged Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year. In October, a Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and the southern besieged Gaza Strip.

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

Until the July 2013 ouster of Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the small Palestinian territory.

Since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade 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.

Human Rights Watch slammed Egypt's military for its campaign against the tunnels in 2015, 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 the Gaza Strip.

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