Middle East

Tunnel explosion kills two Palestinians: Gaza health ministry

The Gaza Health Ministry said an Israeli bombing of a tunnel near the Egyptian border killed two Palestinians on Thursday, but the military denied any involvement.

The Gaza Health ministry spokesman said in a statement the two men were "martyred and five other people were wounded as a result of being targeted by an Israeli warplane along the Palestinian Egyptian borders."

An Israeli military spokesperson said she had no knowledge of the attack, which happened before dawn.

A few hours earlier, the Israeli military said it had intercepted several rockets fired from the Egyptian Sinai peninsula at the southern Israeli town of Eilat. One rocket landed in an open area causing no casualties or damage, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any group for firing the rockets.

In the past, Islamic State-linked groups in Sinai have claimed responsibility for such attacks. Gaza, which shares borders with Israel and Egypt, is ruled by the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.

Egypt's government has accused Hamas of aiding the Islamic State-linked militants in the Sinai desert. Hamas denies those allegations.

The Israel-Gaza border has been largely quiet in recent months, but on Monday a Palestinian rocket launched from the enclave drew several Israeli strikes against Hamas targets.

Israel has said that Hamas bears overall responsibility for what happens in the enclave.

Hamas has observed a de-facto ceasefire with Israel since a 2014 war but small armed cells of Jihadist Salafis have defied the agreement and have continued to occasionally launch rockets at Israel. When those attacks occur, Hamas usually orders its fighters to vacate potential targets for Israeli retaliation.

In the past few years, Egypt has destroyed nearly 2,000 smuggling tunnels that provided Gaza's two million people with goods. Gaza is under an Israeli naval blockade.

Egypt has recently eased restrictions at its tightly controlled border with Gaza.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Nick Macfie; Reuters

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