The body of a Hamas militant was recovered from a tunnel in Gaza on Saturday, a security source said, amid conflicting reports of the clashes with Israeli troops in which he was killed.
“The body … was recovered from a tunnel after digging for more than 20 metres (yards) underground near the border” with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the central Gaza Strip, the source said.
Four commanders of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that rules Gaza were killed late Thursday in clashes sparked by an Israeli raid to destroy the tunnel.
The body recovered on Saturday was that of Khaled Abu Bakr, the source said.
Rescue workers started digging early Saturday for three bodies still missing from the clashes, along with staff from the International Committee for the Red Cross, and watched from the nearby border by Israeli troops.
A spokesman for the Hamas government told AFP that Egypt had helped persuade Israel to allow the teams to dig.
There have been conflicting reports about the fighting.
One of the four men killed, Rabieh Barikeh, was buried on Friday, and Hamas sources had said the other three militants’ bodies had also been found.
The Israeli military said fighting broke out when an explosive went off as troops were clearing the tunnel from Gaza into Israel, allegedly dug to be used as a springboard for attacks.
Five Israeli soldiers were wounded, the army said.
But a Hamas militant in Khan Younis, on condition of anonymity, said three men were killed “in a clash with (Israeli) soldiers … inside the tunnel when the explosion happened and it was shelled by Israeli tanks and aircraft”.
The men had “tried to kidnap Israeli soldiers who entered the tunnel”, he said.
Hamas health minister Ashraf al-Qudra said emergency crews would resume their search for the remaining two bodies on Monday.