Two Palestinians Said Killed in Attack on Tunnel Between Gaza and Egypt; Israeli Army Denies Strike

Palestinian security sources say the attack on a commercial tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border was in response to rocket fire at the southern Israeli city of Eilat.

A Palestinian worker walks inside a smuggling tunnel dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border in the southern Gaza Strip, July 19, 2013.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were killed and five injured in an attack that occurred early Thursday morning on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Israel Defense Forces have denied carrying out an attack overnight.

Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed the details and noted that the attack targeted a commercial tunnel between the Strip and the town of Rafah on the Egyptian side of the border. The two bodies and the injured were taken to a hospital in Gazan Rafah.

Eyewitnesses saw an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the opening of a tunnel on the Egyptian side. This kind of attack is likely to hurt anyone inside the tunnel.

According to Palestinian security sources, the attack was carried out in response to rocket fire at the Israeli resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea late Wednesday night. Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system managed to intercept three of the rockets, and no one was hurt.

According to al-Qudra, the two men killed in the attack were 24-year-old Hossam Asofi of Rafah and Mohammad al Aqra, 38, from Gaza. The five wounded were not identified.

Recently, both Gaza and Egypt have reported increased activity through commercial tunnels between Gaza and Egypt in light of the economic situation in the Strip.

However, Hamas officials reported last week that the organization's security forces have strengthened their presence on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egyptian Rafah as part of an understanding reached in meetings with the Egyptian authorities in Cairo.

The Egyptian army said on Thursday morning that its soldiers demolished six tunnels between Gaza and Rafah in Egypt in the last month and arrested 15 people who tried to illegally cross the border. The Egyptian army did not mention the reported overnight tunnel attack.

On Monday, tensions flared up along Israel's border with Gaza after morning rocket fire was met with six retaliatory attacks by the Israeli army across the Strip on  Hamas-linked targets. Gazans reported few cars were out in the streets and many people stayed at home fear additional attacks. Palestinian medical sources said three people were wounded by shrapnel.