Two Hamas Members Killed in Gaza Tunnel Collapse

Hamas confirms field commander among dead in second tunnel incident in as many weeks.

Jack Khoury
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A Palestinian fighter from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, stands inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury

Two Hamas fighters, including a field commander, died Tuesday in a tunnel in central Gaza, according to an official report released by the militant group on Wednesday. 

Hamas named the two as Fuad Abu-Otawi, 35, and Ahmed Haider Azhar, 23. Both were originally from the Nuseirat refugee camp south of Gaza city.

It was unclear if the tunnel collapse or if Abu-Otawi and Azhar died in an explosion inside the tunnel.

Palestinian media initially reported the incident on Tuesday, saying that one Gaza had been killed. Hamas however, confirmed two deaths in its report on Wednesday morning.

Seven members of Hamas' military wing were killed last week in a separate tunnel that collapsed due to weather conditions east of Gaza city. According to the reports, those killed were aged 19-25 and were working to reconstruct an old tunnel used by Hamas during Israel's last military operation in Gaza in 2014.

Hamas' report Wednesday morning said that such incidents would not deter them from continued work and action in the tunnels.

According to Israeli assessments, Hamas is currently investing heavily in the reconstruction of its military capabilities including the rebuilding of destroyed tunnels and the stock-piling of rockets.

Israeli military officials said last week that there is a likelihood of another military conflict against Hamas in Gaza – a conflict that could occur as the result of Israeli miscalculation or purposeful instigation by Hamas officials attempting to radically change the situation in Gaza.

Military assessments also suggest that the number of tunnels in Gaza is now close to what it was prior to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, during which Israeli troops uncovered and destroyed 32 such structures.

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