The terrorist organization Hamas confirmed that at least two of its members were killed and eight others were missing after a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
The group’s al-Quds TV channel identified one of the dead operatives as 23-year-old Haider a-Zaher.
Hamas announced last week that seven of its members died when an attack tunnel they were working on near Gaza’s eastern border collapsed due to flooding; four are still reported to be missing. Mosques across the strip mourned the dead men, calling them “Martyrs of the Preparation.” The Post reported that several Palestinians who attended a funeral procession for the operatives were injured when the rooftop of a kiosk they were standing on caved in.
The news of the latest tunnel collapse comes amid reports that a 30-year-old Palestinian was killed when a tunnel gave way last Saturday, while 14 Palestinians were rescued after a partial tunnel collapse near the Egyptian border in December. The recent collapses are believed to have been caused by heavy rains that have caused widespread flooding in Gaza. Hamas has accused Israel of opening dams to flood the strip with water, though no such dams exist in the area.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh proclaimed on Friday that the terror group’s new tunnels are “double the length” of those dug in the Vietnam War.
Veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel noted Sunday that at least 12 members of Hamas have died in tunnel collapses in the past year. The “large number of accidents and problems Hamas has run into underground could show that someone in Hamas is in a rush to prepare their offensive tools ahead of a possible decision on an attack,” he wrote.
“The next conflict in the north or south of Israel is just a matter of time,” said Yair Lapid, who chairs the Israeli opposition party Yesh Atid, last week. “As we sit here, there are around 1,000 people digging terror tunnels in Gaza, some of them under the border and into Israel.”
“The provocations, the breaches of international law, the preparations – are already happening every day by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, both with Iranian backing,” he added. “When the next round of fighting breaks out, the analysis and the reporting shouldn’t start with the first Israeli strike, but with what’s happening on the ground right now.”
According to Egyptian authorities, Hamas has been spending the equivalent of $140 million annually to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure. Sources have estimated that as many as 400 people have died in the terrorist group’s tunnels, including more than 160 child laborers.
[Photo: Emad Nassar/Flash90]