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Palestinian dies while working in Gaza 'resistance' tunnel

Dec. 4, 2016 7:05 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2016 10:20 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- A man died in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis on Sunday, in what the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza described as an “accidental event.”

However, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades -- the armed wing of the Hamas movement -- said the man was one of their fighters, and died while working in “resistance” tunnel in Khan Yunis.

Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra declared 24-year-old Abd al-Rahman Asaad Arafat dead on Sunday, hours after the Palestinian Civil Defense said they uncovered the bodies of four Palestinians who were killed last week when a tunnel leading into Egypt in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed on them after the Egyptian army reportedly flooded the tunnel with seawater.

A number of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below the besieged enclave, which are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north.

In October, two members of the al-Qassam Brigades were killed in collapsed tunnels.

In April and May, Israeli forces claimed to have uncovered the first two tunnels crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel since Israel's devastating offensive on Gaza in 2014.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of "preparing" for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole. However, despite Hamas' inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, the movement has not officially claimed responsibility for any military action from Gaza against Israel since the 2014 war.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons from the south, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans -- who have been trapped under Israeli siege for a decade -- including food, medicine, and much-needed infrastructure materials.

The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas authorities had counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since the Israeli blockade began in 2007, and in August 2014, al-Jazeera reported that figure to be as high as 400.

The majority of the nearly two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to the continuation of the military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.

The destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years, including damage to the enclave’s water, sanitation, energy, and medical facilities, coupled with slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

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