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Hamas accuses Egypt of poisoning palestinians in smuggling tunnel

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Hamas has accused Egyptian security forces of pumping poisonous gas into a cross-border smuggling tunnel, killing four Palestinians as a result

An Egyptian intelligence official has denied they pumped gas into the tunnel although admitted security forces blew up the entrances to several tunnels earlier this week and were not aware of any casualties.Egypt, which has been under pressure to shut down the cross-border tunnels into Gaza, routinely blows up entrances to seal the tunnels off.

Palestinian medics working for the Hamas-run health ministry said the four had died from suffocation and that there was evidence of poisonous gas.

The Egyptian official said fires sparked by such explosions could use up all the oxygen in the tunnel and people caught inside could suffocate.Gaza's 1.5 million people have largely relied on the network of hundreds of tunnels beneath the border with Egypt since Israel and Egypt tightened an already strict closure of the territory after Hamas seized power in June 2007. Most of the tunnels are used to bring in basic goods like food, household appliances and livestock, but Hamas and other militant groups use their own more secretive tunnels to bring in arms and money.Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri has now called on an investigation to be held into the incident "and for those responsible to be brought to justice." Mr Abu Zuhri said the territory's reliance on the tunnels had been imposed on it by the border closures, which keep out all but basic humanitarian aid."The alternative is not to kill innocent citizens but to open the crossings," he said, adding that some 40 workers had been killed by Egyptian security forces pumping poisonous gas and sewage into the tunnels. Israel has repeatedly bombed the tunnels in response to Palestinian rocket fire and Egypt has been constructing a large underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security problem.More than 120 Palestinians have died in cave-ins or been killed by Israeli military operations aimed at the tunnels since the Hamas takeover, medics say.