14 rescued from flooded Gaza tunnel

2015-12-08 20:55
Palestinian men dig a hole on the Egyptian side of the border as they repair a bombed smuggling tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, in Rafah, in November 2012. (Patrick Baz, AFP)

Palestinian men dig a hole on the Egyptian side of the border as they repair a bombed smuggling tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, in Rafah, in November 2012. (Patrick Baz, AFP)

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Gaza City - Fourteen Palestinians were rescued on Tuesday after being stranded for hours in a tunnel in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border when it flooded and partially collapsed, officials and media said.

The Palestinians were "working in the tunnel" east of the Rafah border post when it flooded, the Gaza civil defence agency said.

Further details were not available, but Egypt has previously been accused of flooding tunnels to close illegal smuggling routes into and out of Gaza, which faces an Israeli blockade and the closure of its border with Egypt.

Witnesses told media that the 14 men were trapped for several hours in the tunnel when water flooded through its earthen walls.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006 after Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, and tightened it a year later when Hamas took control of the strip.

During a war in summer 2014, Israeli aircraft destroyed a large part of the underground network of tunnels used by Gazans.

At the end of 2014 Egypt began the construction of a buffer zone in the northern Sinai Peninsula, on the border with Gaza, including destroying hundreds of tunnels.

Israel accuses Hamas and other militant groups of using the tunnels for arms supplies, while Cairo says they are also used to smuggle weapons to jihadist movements in the Sinai.

Palestinians accuse Egyptians of flooding the buffer zone to overwhelm the last remaining tunnels, with Egypt allegedly pumping water from the nearby Mediterranean.

In summer 2013 president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in Egypt following popular protests and replaced by former military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Since then the Rafah crossing, the only one between Gaza and Egypt, has remained largely closed, effectively trapping the 1.8 million Gazans into the territory.

Sisi has accused Hamas, which is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, of supporting attacks in Egypt.

Read more on:    abdel fattah al-sisi  |  egypt  |  gaza  |  north africa

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