Palestinian fighters from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades stand inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas announced on Thursday that seven members of its military wing, Izzadin Kassam, were killed when a tunnel collapsed.
The announcement came 24 hours after Hamas said that it had lost contact with 11 who were working inside a tunnel.
The seven men were identified as Thabet al-Rifi, Ghazwan al-Shobaki, Izzadin Kassam, Mahmoud Bassal, Jaafar Hamadeh, Nidal Odeh and Wassim Hassuneh.
Hamas said that another four of its men survived the tunnel collapse.
A statement released by Izzadin Kassam in the Gaza Strip said that one of its units was carrying out reconstruction work at the tunnel east of Gaza City when it collapsed on Tuesday night as a result of the weather conditions.
The statement said that the seven men had “participated in heroic and qualitative operations” during the last war with Israel. It said that Hamas would not have been able to inflict pain on Israel were it not for the men involved in digging the tunnels.
Following the incident, Hamas officials issued instructions to Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip warning them against publishing details about the identity of the men working in the tunnels or the groups they belong to.
The officials also criticized the rival Fatah faction for mocking the smuggling tunnels.
Fatah-affiliated websites reacted to the collapse by denouncing Hamas leaders as “merchants of war who know nothing about life other than burying their youths in the sand.”
Hamas officials said that they were “proud that hundreds of our men are working quietly to prepare for defending and protecting our people over and under the ground.”