Source AP ©

Tunnel along Gaza-Egypt border collapses killing 5 Palestinian smugglers

The bodies of five Palestinian smugglers have been pulled from a tunnel that collapsed along the Gaza-Egypt border, Gaza security officials said Wednesday.

The five were bringing contraband goods from Egypt into Gaza when there was an explosion and the tunnel collapsed, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been cleared for publication.

Two bodies were located shortly after the explosion Tuesday, and the rest were removed early Wednesday. Three smugglers survived and emerged on the Egyptian side, where police arrested them, according to an Egyptian security official. The three told police they were smuggling fuel.

Residents of the Gaza border town of Rafah had said Tuesday that the tunnel had been blown up by the Egyptians, who have been cracking down on the thriving underground smuggling trade along the border. The Egyptian official denied Egyptian authorities were involved, though he said they said they had blown up two other tunnels earlier this week.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security operations.

The Palestinians use dozens of tunnels to smuggle in weapons, cash and goods ranging from from underwear to cigarettes. Israel has been pressing Egypt to close the tunnels along the border so weapons cannot reach the militant Islamic Hamas group that controls Gaza. Israel has blockaded Gaza since Hamas overran the territory last year, and the sanctions have caused severe shortages of goods, including fuel.

Since the beginning of the year 45 people have been killed in accidental tunnel collapses and Egyptian anti-tunnel operations.