23 Palestinian fighters of Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, escaped certain death after being trapped for nearly a month in a collapsed tunnel in the Gaza Strip, 25 meters under the ground, according to a statement published on the brigades’ website.
The brigades announced on Wednesday that the Palestinian civil defence crews had found the 23 fighters alive when the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian resistance came into effect on Tuesday, “after everyone believed they were dead.”
One of the survivors, A S, was quoted as saying: “We were engaged in direct clashes with the Israeli soldiers on Thursday, 17 July, during the second day of the ground incursion, in the Ghawafeer area in the southern Gaza Strip. We hid in one of the tunnels, but the Israeli forces shelled the tunnels with an F-16 missile, which led to closing the tunnel’s exit and disconnecting us from the operations room.”
Confirming that communication with the fighters was indeed lost, field commander F A said: “When we lost contact with the fighters, we considered them to be missing but were unable to look for them because of the continued clashes with the enemy. We did not believe that they had enough food, water or oxygen to survive over this period.”
He added, “But after the ceasefire, the rescue teams started digging in the tunnel area to pull their bodies out only to find all 23 of them alive and in good health.”
One of the survivors, R S explained how they managed to survive for nearly a month underground: “We ate some dried dates that we stored with us and found a small water spring that we drank from during the entire period. Every fighter ate half a date per day.”
Meanwhile, rescue teams are still looking for another three missing fighters, after their fourth colleague, Iyad Al-Farra died while trying to rescue them.