At least seven Palestinians have been killed after Israeli forces targeted a tunnel in a southern town of the besieged Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian officials.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the ministry of health in Gaza, said that nine others were also wounded in the attack on Khan Yunis town and were taken to the nearby al-Aqsa Hospital for treatment.
The ministry officially identified five of those killed as members of the al-Quds Brigade, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing: Brigade Commander Arafat Marshood, Deputy Commander Hasan Abu Hasanein, Ahmad Khalil Abu Armaneh, 25, Omar Nassar Al-Falit, 27 and Jihad al-Samiri.
Two other people killed were identified as 30-year-old Masbah Shbeer and Mohammed al-Agha, 22, both members of Hamas’ Izz Eddine al-Qassam Brigades.
“We affirm our right to respond to the aggression of the occupation today,” the Islamic Jihad Movement said in a statement later on Monday.
“The occupation government must be aware that we will continue to work to strengthen our capabilities to protect our people,” it added.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, said in a post on Twitter that the attack constitutes “a new war against Gaza people”.
Palestinian media reported that the tunnel had been hit by the Israeli air force. Israeli officials said that the tunnel near the border wall, which was in the process of being built, was blown up after being monitored for some time.
Since 2008, Israel has launched three offensives on the Gaza Strip.
The latest one, code-named Operation Protective Edge, took place in the summer of 2014 and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians.
Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli non-combatants were killed in the same period.
The Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip, in its current form, has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed an airtight land, sea and air blockade on the area.
Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.