Hamas fighter killed in new Gaza tunnel collapse

A Hamas militant was killed when a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip

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A Hamas militant was killed on Tuesday when a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip, the group said, in the fourth such incident over the past few weeks.

The death brings to 11 the number of Gazans killed in four separate collapses since January 26, and comes with Israeli concern building over the reconstruction of tunnels it says could be used for attacks.

Israel’s military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday that militant tunnels in Gaza were now the army’s main priority.

The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, said in a statement that Marwan Maarouf, 27, from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, died “after the collapse of a resistance tunnel”.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, said his body had been taken to Khan Yunis hospital.

Ten other Palestinians have died in three tunnel collapses in the past two weeks, nine of them members of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades.

During previous conflicts with Israel, Hamas forces have used the tunnels to avoid or carry out attacks, store weapons and at times to enter Israel. Hamas says it needs the tunnels to defend itself against Israeli firepower.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Gazans have also used tunnels along the Egyptian border for smuggling.

Hamas controls Gaza but an Israeli blockade severely restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory, and Egypt’s sole border with Gaza has also remained largely closed since 2013.

In late 2014, Egypt began setting up a buffer zone on its border with Gaza, and destroyed hundreds of tunnels it says are used for smuggling weapons and other items.

In September 2015, Egyptian forces carried out digging work that Palestinians say led to the flooding of the last remaining tunnels there.