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Egypt kills 4 in Gaza tunnels
Al Qassam website/Agencies-Gaza- April 29, 2010-Egyptian forces pumped gas into a cross-border tunnel used to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip late on Wednesday, killing four Palestinians, Hamas officials said.
Under pressure from Israel and the United States, Egypt has tried to stem the passages from its Sinai peninsula, which have allowed Palestinians in Gaza to import commercial goods in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade.
Israel and Egypt have kept Gaza's official border crossings closed since Hamas won the Palestinian elections democratically .
A Hamas security official in charge of the tunnel area along the border said the Egyptians filled the passage with some type of crowd dispersal gas.
The Hamas Interior Ministry later said in a statement the gas used to try to clear the tunnel was poisonous. Besides those killed, six people were injured, it said.
"The Interior Ministry confirms that the citizens' cause of death was the Egyptian security forces spraying poison gasses into one of the tunnels,"
A doctor at a hospital in the Gaza border town of Rafah, Hamdan Abu Latifa, said the dead smugglers suffocated. An Egyptian border security official refused to comment Wednesday. Egypt, now building an underground wall along the frontier, does not generally discuss its anti-tunneling efforts.
Egyptian security forces have sprayed gas into tunnels before, according to Hamas officials and tunnel operators. But Wednesday's incident was the first time people have died as a result, they said.
Condemnation from Hamas
"This is a terrible crime committed by Egyptian security against simple Palestinian workers who were trying to earn their daily bread," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum to The Associated Press. "It was a killing in cold blood. Hamas and all the Palestinian people condemn it strongly."
"We demand that Egypt explain its position about what is happening and investigate the circumstances of this terrible crime and show the truth to the entire world and hold those responsible accountable," he said. One and half million residents of the impoverished Strip rely on the tunnels to bring in food and commercial goods like refrigerators and clothing.
Israeli aircraft have targeted the tunnels in bombing runs in the past, particularly during its military offensive against Gaza more than a year ago .