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Palestinians in Gaza Strip mourn deaths of 7 al-Qassam fighters

Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took part Friday in the funeral of seven fighters from Hamas’ military wing who were killed while rebuilding the underground tunnel network.

Hamas reported nearly a quarter of a million attendees to the funeral of the al-Qassam Brigades fighters, who were buried in the al-Shuhada (Martyrs’) cemetery in eastern Gaza City. The funeral procession was led by armed members of the brigades, setting off from Gaza City’s al-Omari mosque following Friday prayers.

Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said during the prayers that resistance was ongoing and that the al-Qassam Brigades were continuing preparations “to face any confrontation with the Israeli occupation,” adding that al-Qassam fighters dug tunnels in order to defend the besieged Gaza Strip. In the past few weeks, there has been mounting speculation about a new war on Gaza.

The movement announced Thursday that at least 10 fighters were in a tunnel in northern Gaza earlier this week when it collapsed due to heavy rains, killing Thabet al-Rifi, 25, Ghazwan al-Shubaki, 25, Izz al-Din Qassem, 21, Wassim Hassouneh, 19, Mahmoud Basal, 25, Nidal Odeh, 24, and Jaafar Hamadeh, 23.

The announcement supported previous reports that Hamas had been expanding the tunnel network – used mainly for military purposes in the northern Gaza Strip and smuggling in the south – since Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged enclave left much of it destroyed.

In a press statement released prior to the funeral Friday, Hamas mourned the seven fighters and called on Palestinians to “rally around armed resistance and reject all forms of security coordination with the Israeli occupation.

“Those men died as they were preparing for anti-occupation resistance. They have sacrificed their souls to defend their land and holy sites,” the statement read. Hamas added in the statement that those who have “remained mum over the Israeli crimes and have been propping up security coordination are the nation’s enemies. “Armed resistance is the only road towards the liberation of Palestine. Our people’s sacrifices shall never go in vain,” the movement said.

While Hamas has remained largely absent from a wave of unrest that spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October and continued into January, officials from the movement have been vocal in their rejection of the Palestinian Authority’s response, particularly security coordination carried out with Israel.

Images by MEMO photographer Mohammed Asad.

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