Palestinian civil defense missions were deployed for the third day on Tuesday to search for four Palestinian workers who were reported missing after the flooding of a tunnel between Gaza and the Egyptian city of Rafah on Sunday.
According to Palestinian media outlets, the Egyptian military flooded the border area between Egypt and Palestine, which led to the demolition of a number of old tunnels. Around 20 workers were trapped and four are reportedly still missing inside one of the tunnels.
The four missing workers are brothers Emad and Ali Badawy, Samy al-Taweel and Mohamed Badawi, who live in Shaboura and Nosairat camps in the Palestinian area of Rafah.
“The four young men entered the tunnel, and we heard the voice of one of them screaming, ‘water, water,’ before his voice disappeared completely. Three people headed to the tunnel to see what was happening, but they quickly ran away after they saw water running towards the Palestinian side,” a press report quoted an eyewitness as saying.
Egypt’s Armed Forces began the process of flooding the border area with Palestine under former President Mohamed Morsi in February 2013. Several political leaders at the time, including Morsi and his national security advisor Essam al-Haddad, said the demolition of the tunnels was driven by national security concerns, to prevent weapons smuggling from Gaza to Sinai.
The process of flooding the borders increased following Morsi’s ouster in 2013, with observers estimating that over 2000 tunnels were demolished.
The Israeli military suggested the digging of a 20-meter deep-water passage between Egypt and Gaza before its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, to prevent the construction of the tunnels. The proposal was rejected by the Israeli government for fear of international condemnation.