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Bodies of 5 Palestinian fighters found in Gaza tunnel, bringing death toll to 12

Nov. 3, 2017 2:37 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 4, 2017 3:14 P.M.)
A poster of the five Islamic Jihad fighters whose bodies were found on Friday
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, released a statement on Friday declaring that five missing fighters belonging to the group in Gaza were dead.

The five fighters had gone missing inside tunnels between southern Gaza and Israeli territory, after Israeli forces conducted explosions on the tunnels.

After the first explosion, which buried the five Islamic Jihad fighters, several other fighters from the Islamic Jihad and Hamas movements entered the tunnels on a rescue mission. A second explosion then killed seven of the rescue fighters, and injured at least twelve more.

In the statement on Friday, the Islamic Jihad movement said they had recovered the bodies, and identified the five slain fighters who had been missing since the first explosion as Badr Kamal Musbeh, Ahmad Hasan al-Sabakhi, Shadi Sami al-Hemri, Muhammad Kheir al-Din al-Buheisi and Alaa Sami Abu Ghrab.

A poster of all 12 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters that were killed as a result of the explosion

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, released a statement following the attack, saying that “the blood of the martyrs would not be wasted, and that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the consequences of this aggressive escalation.”

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of "preparing" for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole. However, despite Hamas' inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, the movement has not officially claimed responsibility for any military action from Gaza against Israel since the 2014 war.

While the tunnels in Gaza are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly demanded necessities for Gazans -- who have been trapped under Israeli siege for a decade -- including food, medicine, and much-needed infrastructure materials.

The majority of the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to the continuation of the military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.

The destruction from three Israeli offensives since 2008, including damage to the enclave’s water, sanitation, energy, and medical facilities, coupled with slow reconstruction due to the blockade, led the UN to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

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