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People gather around bodies of Palestinians killed in a tunnel near the border between Israel and central Gaza Strip October 30, 2017. Reuters/Mohammed Salem
People gather around bodies of Palestinians killed in a tunnel near the border between Israel and central Gaza Strip October 30, 2017. Reuters/Mohammed Salem

Iran on Monday condemned Israel as “bloodthirsty” after the Israel Defense Forces blew up a tunnel in the Gaza Strip killing seven people.

“The bloodthirsty Zionist regime is trying to bend the will of the oppressed people of the occupied territories to guarantee its security by killing Palestinian youths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.

“This is while seven decades of crimes, bloodshed and child-killing could not weaken the determination of this patient and courageous people at all,” he added.

A source for the Islamic Jihad militant group said Arafat Abu Marshould, head of the group’s armed wing in central Gaza, was killed with a senior associate and two other gunmen, adding that the group’s fighters were on “full alert”.

The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas group said two of its gunmen were killed while trying to rescue Islamic Jihad men working in the tunnel. Gaza health officials said nine people were wounded.

The Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel – which he suggested had been built since the 2014 war – was an “active” construction that Israeli forces had been been monitoring for some time.

Conricus said the tunnel was detected less than two miles from the Israeli village of Kissufim, but that no Israelis had been in danger.

He did not explain why Israel decided to detonate the tunnel this week, although the presence of fighters inside may have triggered the Israeli action.

Conricus called the tunnel a “grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty” for which he held Hamas responsible.

Monday’s incident came as the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah attempt to fulfill a reconciliation deal signed earlier this month aimed at ending a decade-long rift.

Hamas is due to hand control of Gaza back to the Palestinian Authority by 1 December under the agreement. Israel has warned that it will not accept a unity government that includes Hamas if it does not disarm and recognise the country, among other demands.

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