Smuggling tunnel deaths rise

2009-07-27 21:13
Gaza City/Cairo - Emergency response crews on Monday found the burnt bodies of six Palestinians missing in the aftermath of an explosion in a tunnel used for smuggling between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, medics said.

"Paramedics and civil defence officers have pulled out six additional bodies today, and one was pulled out yesterday," Mo'aweya Hassanein, the chief of the Gaza Strip's emergency services team told reporters.

The discovery of the bodies at the scene in the divided border town of Rafah brought to seven the number of people killed in the blast. Emergency workers found nine survivors, Hassanein said.

The cause of the explosion was not clear, though some witnesses on the Palestinian side of Rafah said it had been caused by a fuel leak.

The incident followed reports from residents that Egyptian border guards had been unusually active in their search for the smuggling tunnels in recent days.

A thriving smuggling trade has taken route in Rafah since Israel and Egypt blockaded the Gaza Strip after Hamas took power there in 2007. Smugglers carry basic commodities such as food, fuel and livestock, but also drugs and weapons.

Egypt has been under consistent international pressure, particularly from Israel and the United States, to do more to stop the smuggling.

Dozens of workers, including children under the age of 16, have been killed working in the tunnels that are often hand-dug.

Palestinian human rights groups have called on Hamas to prevent children from working in the tunnels and to take steps to make the tunnels safer.
Read more on:    egypt  |  palestine

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