Four men who had gone missing after a smuggling tunnel connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt collapsed on them have been confirmed dead by a Palestinian official.
Emergency workers have recovered the bodies of three men but the body of the fourth is still missing, Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman of the Gaza-based health ministry, told DPA news agency on Sunday.
Search crews had been looking for the bodies since last week, when the tunnel collapsed after being flooded.
Al-Aqsa Radio, run by Gaza’s Hamas, said the men drowned in the tunnel were Palestinians, but the identities of the deceased have not been confirmed by officials.
The tunnel collapse is the latest in a series of cave-ins to claim Palestinian lives. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in collapses since the beginning of the year.
Egypt has used waste water and sea water to flood the tunnels over the past three years in an effort to fight the spread of cross-border routes.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has cracked down on the smuggling tunnels since assuming office in 2014.
Before him, there were an estimated 1,800 tunnels under the border, used to smuggle goods into Gaza, from
food and medicine to cigarettes, diesel, clothing and disassembled cars.
In the same year, an Israeli assault on Gaza killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis.
Thousands of houses were damaged or entirely destroyed by Israeli bombs, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians with nowhere to live.
The Gaza Strip, an area comprising 360 square kilometres, has been under a tight Israeli blockade since the Hamas movement’s takeover of the coastal enclave in June 2007.