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Palestinians rescued from tunnel bombed by Israel

Egyptian authorities rescued three Palestinians trapped for five days in a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza border that was bombed by Israeli warplanes, officials said Saturday.

world Updated: May 24, 2009 01:04 IST

Egyptian authorities rescued three Palestinians trapped for five days in a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza border that was bombed by Israeli warplanes, officials said Saturday.

Palestinian security officials said the accidental collapse of another border tunnel on Saturday left two people dead and four missing.

Rescuers used heavy machinery to dig the three survivors out of a tunnel hit by Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday along the Egyptian-Gaza border. Since its three-week war against Gaza's Hamas rulers earlier this year, Israel's military has continued to carry out such attacks to try to prevent militants from smuggling weapons into the territory.

Palestinians also use the tunnels to bring food, clothing, fuel and even livestock into the impoverished Gaza Strip, which has been sealed off for nearly two years. Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the militants of Hamas seized control of the strip in a battle with their Palestinian rivals in June 2007. The three survivors were located with the help of maps from smugglers familiar with the elaborate network of tunnels, the Egyptian official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The three were apprehended and were being questioned, the official said. They were in weak condition when first rescued, he said without giving details.

Besides Israeli airstrikes, deadly tunnel collapses have become frequent as result of accidents. More than 20 people have been killed in such accidents this year.

Also Saturday, an 18-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank was shot three times in the lower part of his body. Mufid Shehab said he had been throwing stones at Israeli cars near the Palestinian village of Sebastia in the northern West Bank when he was hit by Israeli army fire. Shehab was taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Nablus.

The military had no immediate comment.