GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Three Palestinians were killed and five others were injured after suffering from gas suffocation on Friday evening while working inside a tunnel between the border of the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt, the Palestinian Civil Defense reported on Saturday.
The Civil Defense pointed out that the tunnel was blown up last week by Egyptian authorities, adding that the workers were attempting to renovate the tunnel again.
They identified the three killed as Abdullah Walid al-Namuli, 23, Salameh Suleiman Abu Shusheh, 24, and Obeid Muhammad al-Sufi, 25. Their bodies, including those injured, were transferred to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah city.
Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities had announced that six tunnels between the besieged enclave and Egypt were destroyed.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
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.
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.