GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Six Palestinians, five of them Hamas militants, were killed after an explosion caused the collapse of a tunnel under the Israeli border on Thursday, Palestinian officials said.
“Five people were martyred during resistance activity in Saghira neighborhood” in eastern Gaza City, the local Hamas information office said of the members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, without elaborating.
A spokesman for Gaza’s health services, Ashraf al-Qudra, said that a member of the emergency crew dispatched to the tunnel died of suffocation and four others were injured.
A security source told AFP the “accidental explosion” happened “inside an Al-Qassam Brigades tunnel, which collapsed on some 12 members.”
Eyewitnesses reported a large explosion near the border with Israel, where the army told AFP they had no knowledge of the incident.
Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, formally relinquished power over it on June 2 when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appointed a government of independents under a unity agreement.
But Hamas security forces remain in place in Gaza, and the Brigades were not disarmed, as the deal does not relate to the military factions of Palestinian movements.
In addition to tunnels dug under the border with Egypt to smuggle goods, militant Gaza groups use tunnels to infiltrate beyond Israel’s lines.