Two Gazans die in Egypt border tunnel: Hamas ministry

Egypt destroyed and closed various tunnels in 2013. Above, is a Palestinian tunnel that leads into Israel. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Two Gazans die in Egypt border tunnel: Hamas ministry

  • The origins of the gas that suffocated the two Palestinians remains unknown
  • The tunnels were used by Palestinians to smuggle in supplies during Israeli blockades

GAZA: Two Palestinians including a Hamas policeman suffocated to death from gas in a cross-border tunnel under Gaza’s frontier with Egypt, the enclave’s interior ministry said Monday.
Interior ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bozum said 39-year-old major Abdelhamid Al-Akar and Sabhy Abu Qarushayn, 28, “suffocated due to the inhalation of toxic gases.”
Civil defense crews, alerted on Sunday, retrieved the two bodies from the tunnel “after a great effort that lasted several hours,” Bozum said in a statement.
He did not comment on the origin of the substance, but a Palestinian security source said the Egyptian military has used gas to halt the use of illegal tunnels it finds along the border.
The Egyptian army could not be re2ndached for comment Monday but in 2010 Cairo denied similar charges after the deaths of four Palestinians in a border tunnel.
Tunnels have in the past been a key way for Gazans to skirt a decade-long Israeli blockade and, until recently, Egypt’s closure of its crossing with the enclave.
They once served as a lifeline for the cramped territory of two million people squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea.
But the passages have also been used to bring in weapons by Hamas, the enclave’s Islamist rulers who have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
Egypt closed or destroyed dozens of tunnels after the overthrow of its Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Mursi, an ally of Hamas, in 2013, though several remain.
Tensions between Egypt and Hamas have eased in recent years and many Egyptian goods are now imported in to Gaza openly through the Rafah border crossing.


Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

Updated 13 min 42 sec ago
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Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday suggested the mosque in Athens should open with minarets if the Greek premier wants to reopen a seminary in Istanbul.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Turkey this month and visited the disputed landmarks of Hagia Sophia and the now-closed Greek Orthodox Halki seminary.
Tsipras said during the visit to the seminary located on Heybeli island off Istanbul on February 6 he hoped to reopen the school next time with Erdogan.
Future priests of the Constantinople diocese had been trained at the seminary, which was closed in 1971 after tensions between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus.
Erdogan on Saturday complained that the Fethiye Mosque in Athens had no minarets despite Greek insistence that it would open.
The mosque was built in 1458 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece but has not been used as a mosque since 1821.
“Look you want something from us, you want the Halki seminary. And I tell you (Greece), come, let’s open the Fethiye Mosque,” Erdogan said during a rally in the northwestern province of Edirne ahead of local elections on March 31.
“They said, ‘we are opening the mosque’ but I said, why isn’t there a minaret? Can a church be a church without a bell tower?” he said, describing his talks with Tsipras.
“We say, you want to build a bell tower? Come and do it... But what is an essential part of our mosques? The minarets,” the Turkish president added.
Erdogan said Tsipras told him he was wary of criticism from the Greek opposition.
After the independence war against Ottomans began in 1821, the minaret is believed by some to have been destroyed because it was a symbol of the Ottoman occupation.
Ankara had returned land taken from the seminary in 1943 but there is still international pressure on Turkey to reopen it.
Erdogan has previously said that its reopening is dependent on reciprocal steps from Greece to enhance the rights of the Turkish minority.