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Gaza tunnel collapse kills two Hamas fighters

At least 23 Gazans have died in tunnel accidents in recent months
Egyptian soldiers inspect a smuggling tunnel in the divided border town of Rafah (AFP)

Two Hamas members were killed and three are missing after a tunnel in the Gaza Strip collapsed, the group's military wing said on Thursday.

"The Al-Qassam Brigades hail the fighters Ismail Abdul Kareem and Rami Muneer from Shejaiya, who died following the collapse of a resistance tunnel," it said.

A source close to Qassam said five militants were in the tunnel when it collapsed and efforts were continuing to find and rescue the other three.

Over the years the Hamas rulers of Gaza have built a labyrinth of tunnels, including ones crossing under the border with Israel, for use in any renewed conflict.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and the territory has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Four Palestinians were also found dead in a smuggling tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, local officials said on 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.

Underground wall

Attack tunnels were a key weapon for Hamas during the last conflict in 2014, with a number of surprise attacks inside Israeli territory.

The group also built a vast network of tunnels under the border with Egypt to smuggle weapons and goods of all kinds but those have been severely disrupted by Cairo's establishment of a no man's land along the frontier.

In recent months, at least 23 Gazans have died in tunnel incidents, most of them Hamas militants.

In September, it was reported in Israeli media that Israel had begun building an underground wall around Gaza to stop Hamas building tunnels.

"Construction has begun along all towns considered to be next to the fence with Gaza," the Ynet news website reported.

It posted a video appearing to show heavy machinery operating along the border.

The defence ministry has reportedly been planning an underground structure around the Palestinian coastal enclave to prevent tunnels being dug into Israel, though the government has neither confirmed nor denied this.

According to Ynet, the barrier would have sensors to detect digging and eventually run the length of the 60km Gaza border.

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