Israel Discovers Hamas Compound Directly Under UNRWA’s Gaza HQ

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United Nations flag over the offices of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east, in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jun 13, 2019. Photo by Esty Dziubov/TPS *** Local Caption *** ????"? ????? - ?????? ???? ???????? ?? ? ??"? ?????? ?????? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ????? ??????? ?????? ??? ???? ????
By Pesach Benson • 11 February, 2024

Jerusalem, 11 February, 2024 (TPS) — Israeli officials blasted the embattled UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees amid Saturday’s revelations that a Hamas compound was found directly under the agency’s Gaza City headquarters, connected to the UNRWA’s electricity, along with a statement by the agency director denying knowledge of the tunnel.

Israel disclosed the compound in a tweet by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit within the Israeli Defense Ministry that coordinates civilian issues between the Israeli government, military, international organizations and the Palestinian Authority.

“EXPOSED: A Hamas terror tunnel right under UNRWA’s main headquarters in Gaza, using its electricity and infrastructure. A Hamas server room was also located inside the tunnel, along with large amounts of weapons inside the UNRWA building,” COGAT said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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A video accompanying the tweet showed an underground tunnel with computer servers and extensive electrical cables.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini denied any knowledge of the data center. In a lengthy tweet on Saturday night, Lazzarini said UNRWA staff evacuated the headquarters on October 12 and that Israel never notified the agency of the tunnel’s existence.

COGAT fired back shortly after, “Oh, you knew. Digging a tunnel takes longer than 4 months. We invited senior @UN officials to see, and during past meetings with you and other UN officials, we stated Hamas’s use of UNRWA’s headquarters. You chose to ignore the facts so you can later try and deny them.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan added, “We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did you refuse, you chose to stick your head in the sand.”

COGAT also tweeted a separate video showing the weapons found inside the UNRWA compound, including suicide bomber belts, grenades, rifles, explosives, bullets and Hamas flags.

Embattled UNRWA

Since October 7, the agency has been under fire numerous times, prompting Israel to demand that UNRWA be stripped of its authority in Gaza and defunded amid revelations that members of the agency’s staff participated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. The US and 14 other countries have suspended funding for the agency and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the military to find alternatives to distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza that bypass UNRWA.

Israel intelligence incriminating 12 staffers of their participation, including using UNRWA vehicles and facilities as 1,200 Israelis were massacred was leaked to The New York Times. Afterward, The Wall Street Journal reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Israel’s largest bank froze UNRWA’s account over suspicious financial transfers that the agency failed to adequately explain.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and UN Watch documented UNRWA employees expressing support for the attacks on social media.

Soldiers found missiles hidden among UNRWA relief supplies while sacks belonging to the agency were filled with dirt and used in the lining of tunnels.

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor accused UNRWA of undermining Israeli sovereignty over the city, among other things.

Palestinian refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

The UNRWA’s definition of refugees not only includes the original refugees but also their descendants in perpetuity, including those who have citizenship in other countries. The UNHCR definition does not confer refugee status on descendants.

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