Hamas Confirms Seven Killed in Tunnel Collapse

Four Hamas fighters said to have escaped while reconstructing tunnel used in 2014 war.

A Palestinian fighter from the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, August 18, 2014.

Hamas' military wing confirmed Thursday afternoon that seven of its fighters were killed in a previously reported tunnel collapse in the east of Gaza City.

On Wednesday, it was reported that eight fighters had gone missing in the tunnel collapse and Hamas said it had begun searching for survivors.

According to the group, those killed were aged 19-25 and were working on the reconstruction of a tunnel used by Hamas fighters in the last war against Israel in Gaza, formally known as Operation Protective Edge.

Aside from the seven who were killed, four reportedly managed to escape the tunnel, which collapsed due to weather conditions. Hamas also stressed that those killed took part in fighting during the operation in 2014.

Israel estimates that Hamas is investing efforts in restoring its military capability by building tunnels leading into Israeli territory and renewing its inventory of rockets, among other things.

It is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge. During operation, Israel discovered and destroyed 32 attack tunnels that the Palestinians had dug toward the Israeli border, a third of which penetrated into Israeli territory.