Several Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, called for an investigation on Friday after three Palestinians were found dead in a tunnel near the border area. According to reports in the enclave, there are factions that accuse Egypt's army of killing the men using toxic gas.
Hamas' Interior Ministry confirmed that three bodies were extricated from the tunnel in southern Rafah, and that security forces are investigating the incident. On Thursday evening, they had lost contact with the three men.
Egypt has not yet commented on the unconfirmed accusations.
Since a blockade of Gaza was tightened in 2007, Palestinians have repeatedly dug such tunnels, used to smuggle goods and weapons from Egypt into the coastal area.
However, Egyptian forces destroyed most of the tunnels during the past years, for example by flooding them.
Hamas is demanding that the blockade of Gaza be lifted completely. Some 2 million people live in impoverished conditions in the coastal area.
Israel and Egypt justify the blockade by citing security considerations. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
- Egypt shuts Rafah crossing with Gaza after border clashes with Israel
- Hamas is prepared for another flare-up with Israel, defense officials believe
- Israeli soldier critically wounded by live fire in Gaza clashes
In May, the Israeli military and Palestinian militants engaged in an 11-day armed conflict in which 13 people were killed in Israel and 255 people died in the Gaza Strip, according to official figures given by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities respectively.
Egypt eventually brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the group which controls Gaza. The deal went into effect on May 21.