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Four Palestinians die in Gaza tunnel flood blamed on Egypt

Gaza authorities say men were found dead after tunnel was flooded by the Egyptian army
Egypt has destroyed hundreds of tunnels in the area, alleging they are used to transport arms (AFP)

Four Palestinians have been found dead in a smuggling tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, local officials said Sunday, accusing the Egyptian military of flooding it.

The four men aged 22 to 45 "were found dead after the tunnel they were working in was flooded nine days ago by the Egyptian army," local authorities in the Gazan city of Rafah near Egypt's border said in a statement.

Egypt had not confirmed the information, though it has destroyed hundreds of tunnels in the area, alleging they are used to transport arms and militants.

Gazans use such tunnels to smuggle goods into the Palestinian enclave run by the Hamas movement and under an Israeli blockade for a decade. 

The border between Egypt and Gaza has also remained largely closed since the 2013 overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

While the tunnels into Egypt have been used for smuggling, Gazan tunnels into Israel have been used for attacks, particularly in the 2014 war between the two sides.

Gazans allege Egypt has carried out work to flood the area along its border to destroy tunnels into the Sinai, where Egyptian security forces are also fighting Islamic State-linked militants.

In recent months, at least 20 Gazans have died in both militant and smuggling tunnels in the strip of some two million people. A number of militant tunnels have collapsed in recent months.

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