The Hamas terrorist organization that rules Gaza has accused Egypt of killing four smugglers Wednesday by pumping gas into a tunnel under the border. Six other smugglers were injured.
A Hamas security official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Egyptians filled the tunnel with some type of crowd dispersal gas. The smugglers suffocated to death, according to Dr. Hamdan Abu Latifa, who was interviewed in the border town of Rafiah.
Later in the day, however, the Hamas de facto Interior Ministry released a statement claiming the gas was poisonous. “The Interior Ministry confirms that the citizens' cause of death was the Egyptian security forces spraying poison gasses into one of the tunnels,” the statement said. Egypt denies that the gas was poisonous.
Hamas: Egypt Killed in Cold Blood
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the incident “a terrible crime committed by Egyptian security against simple Palestinian workers who were trying to earn their daily bread. It was a killing in cold blood.” Barhoum said the terrorist group is demanding an investigation into the incident to “hold those responsible accountable.”
It is not clear whether the United Nations will launch an investigation, although the four Palestinian Authority Arabs who died are technically considered to be “civilian” residents of Gaza.
Egypt has been cracking down on the smuggling in recent months through various methods, including blowing up tunnel entrances on its side of the border, and sinking a steel barrier deep into the ground under its border.
Construction has been competed on nearly four miles of the underground steel wall, which so far has blocked off about half of the eight-mile-long border. The project has infuriated Hamas, which depends on the hundreds of tunnels that honeycomb the Egyptian border area in order to bypass the blockade at the various crossings into Israel.
A brisk commercial import business has developed through the tunnels, which also provide a convenient, unofficial conduit into the region for terror operatives and contraband such as guns and missiles, ammunition and drugs. Entire new cars, in fact, have been brought into the region through the tunnels for sale to Gaza residents.
The Gaza crossings into Israel are open every day and hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid supplies are delivered to the region each week. However, traffic in and out of Gaza is strictly controlled by the IDF's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Terrorities (CoGAT). Likewise, the Rafiah crossing into Egypt is also open at least twice a week, but the terminal is controlled by Cairo.