An underground tunnel collapsed early Wednesday near Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, burying a Palestinian smuggler alive, a security official said.

Mohammed el-Bashiti and five others had nearly finished expanding the tunnel from Gaza into Egypt when the ceiling gave way, said the official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

The nearly 2,000-foot-long tunnel, located about 30 feet below ground, was an old one that the smugglers were attempting to renovate.

El-Bashiti precipitated the collapse of the tunnel's sandy ceiling when he pushed a pole through to the surface in an effort to show his accomplices where the reconstructed tunnel would emerge to the surface, the official said. The five other smugglers managed to escape.

Palestinian smugglers use tunnels to bring weapons and contraband goods into Gaza from Egypt. Israel says anti-tank missiles, tons of explosives and thousands of rifles have reached militants in Gaza through the tunnels.