Ma’an News Agency, Feb. 9, 2017
GAZA (Ma’an) — Two Palestinians were killed and five were injured during a reported airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza on Wednesday night, official Palestinian sources said.
Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said on Thursday that Hussam Hamid al-Sufi, 24, from the town of Rafah, and Muhammad Anwar al-Aqraa, a 38-year-old resident of Gaza City, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, while five other Palestinians were injured.
An Israeli army spokesperson however denied to Ma’an that the army was involved in the reported strike.
However, Israeli media stated that the alleged tunnel attack came in the wake of four rockets being fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula towards the southern Israeli city of Eilat, which were later claimed by the so-called Islamic State group. No casualties were reported in the incident.
The casualties came in the wake of multiple airstrikes launched by the Israeli army inside the Gaza Strip on Monday which injured two Palestinians, after a rocket that landed in an open area in the Ashkelon region of southern Israel.
The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern on Tuesday that Israel could be leading up to a wide-scale military offensive.
The rights group called on the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” stressing that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
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.
Both Israel and Egypt have targeted the tunnels for destruction in the past.
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.
The majority of nearly 2 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.