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Friday, April 1, 2016

Hamas Tries To Keep Lid on Tunnel Disaster as Death Toll Rises

Terror group blames Israel for cave-in that left seven dead and four missing
Screenshot from an Iranian TV report purporting to show a new Hamas tunnel that reaches into Israeli territory, June 28, 2015. (Screenshot/Al-Alam)
Screenshot from an Iranian TV report purporting to show a new Hamas tunnel that reaches into Israeli territory, June 28, 2015. (Screenshot/Al-Alam)

Avi Issacharoff,

Hamas on Wednesday tried to keep under wraps the details of a Gaza Strip tunnel collapse, the day after the cave-in killed several members of the terror group.

Seven people were confirmed killed and another four remain missing after the collapse, which came as heavy rains drenched the region, according to sources in Gaza.

In a bid to keep a lid on the disaster, the group, which is the de facto ruler in Gaza, prevented local media from reporting the incident, which occurred in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood in northeastern Gaza City.

Hamas accused Israel of causing the collapse by opening dams to flood Gaza with water — an annual claim made by Palestinians and flatly rejected by Israel.

The nature of the tunnel in question was not immediately clear. Hamas has in the past dug cross-border tunnels into Israel in order to stage attacks on civilians and soldiers. Other tunnels are used by the terror group as part of its defensive infrastructure.

It has recently been reported that Hamas has accelerated its tunnel-digging program.

Hamas has built dozens of tunnels into Israel, many of which were used to carry out attacks during the 2014 conflict with Israel. The IDF said it destroyed over 30 tunnels at the time, but officials have expressed concern that the terror group is seeking to rebuild the infrastructure.

The Strip has been subject to a blockade by both Egypt and Israel, designed in part to prevent the terror group from importing arms and building new tunnels reinforced with concrete.

Egypt has embarked on a massive campaign aimed at stemming cross-border smuggling between Gaza and Sinai, where it is fighting an insurgency by Islamist militants. The operation has included flooding hundreds of tunnels that once dotted the border region and building a 500-meter-wide buffer zone filled with seawater.