Trapped Gaza tunnel workers found dead

Palestinian boys warm themselves by a fire inside a house, that was destroyed in a past Israeli air strike, on a windy winter day in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip on 7 January 2013. (Photo: Reuters - Mohammed Salem)

Published Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Egyptian man's body was pulled out of a collapsed Gaza tunnel Thursday, a day after another underground smuggler was found dead.

Heavy rainfall from a storm earlier this month destroyed some of the tunnel network, leaving four smugglers trapped underground. Two were rescued within days.

Over 233 people, including nine children, have died trying to smuggle goods from through the tunnels, built to circumvent Israel's crippling blockade of the coastal strip since 2005. There are over 1,000 tunnels in the underground trade network.

The tunnel network has so far operated under a cloak of mystery, with no official count of goods and people passing through. Local human rights organization Mezan renewed calls this week to organize tunnel movement, and institute safety procedures.

Salem Musa Samaha's corpse was recovered near Rafah, more than a week after the tunnels were destroyed. The other deceased smuggler was identified as Bassam Khader Shahin.

Underground trade had halted between Egypt and the coastal strip due to safety concerns about stormy weather, and some of the tunnels were later found to have flooded to the point of collapse.

The Gaza Strip has since 2007 been under an Israeli land and sea blockade, aided by Egypt’s frequent closures of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

To circumvent the blockade, Palestinians built a network of more than 1,000 tunnels, breathing life into a floundering economy.

A storm that originated in Russia has hit the Eastern Mediterranean countries of Turkey, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, flooding streets and causing severe damage to houses. Several deaths have been reported.

(Al-Akhbar)

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