Tunnel Explosion Kills Hamas 'Martyrs'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip reported five members killed and several wounded in a Gaza smuggling tunnel explosion Thursday, describing the work-related accident as "resistance activity" and the fatalities as "shahids" (martyrs).

"Five martyrs were killed in a resistance activity in [the] Saghira neighborhood" in eastern Gaza City, the local Hamas information office said without elaborating, AFP reported. Hamas later added a sixth casualty, identifying the men as members of its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Did someone light a cigarette? No telling, but something set off the massive underground explosion that collapsed the tunnel, killing and injuring the terrorists.

In Hamas and Fatah lingo, "resistance" covers any and all activities against the "Zionist occupiers" of Israel, a land they claim as theirs "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] Sea." 

Meanwhile, the search for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped last Thursday has allowed Israel to clamp down on Hamas-affiliated Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), an area ruled by Fatah before it formed a unity government with Hamas earlier this month.

To date, the IDF has taken approximately 330 suspects into custody, 240 of whom identify themselves as Hamas members. More than 50 of them were included in the prisoner swap for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Some have likely forfeited their commuted sentences.

"The arrest of 50 terrorists freed as part of the Shalit deal by our forces will delay their return for many years," Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, head of the IDF's Central Command," said in a letter to troops carrying out Operation Brother's Keeper, the Times of Israel  reported. "Thus Hamas' attempt to release prisoners brought about the opposite result."

The details of their commuted sentences reveal just how far Israel was willing to go to secure one soldier's release.

According to the report, four were serving two consecutive life sentences, 13 were serving life sentences, 19 were in for more than 20 years, and five for up to 20 years -- all for terror-related crimes, including murder and manslaughter.

"The fight against terrorism -- and Hamas in particular -- is an ongoing campaign that has persisted for many years and is expected to continue to be part of the reality of our lives," Gen. Alon said.

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