Israeli military discovers Hamas tunnel and data center under UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City
The Israeli military says that it has discovered a Hamas tunnel and a secret data center underneath the evacuated headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City.
Discovery of the tunnel
According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the shaft leading to the underground “terror tunnel” was located near a UN-sponsored school. The tunnel was half a mile long and 60 feet deep, passing “under the building that serves as UNRWA’s main headquarters in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement on Saturday.
Use of UNRWA facilities
The underground compound served as “a significant asset of Hamas’ military intelligence,” the IDF said, adding that “UNRWA’s facilities supplied the tunnel with electricity.”
Response from UNRWA
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini responded to the claims by saying that the agency “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.” He added that the UN staff was evacuated on October 12, and that he is “unable to confirm or otherwise comment” on the allegations made by Israel.
“UNRWA is a Human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises,” Lazzarini wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Implications for UNRWA
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz rejected Lazzarini’s explanations as “an affront to common sense” and urged for his “prompt resignation.”
The UN agency tasked with assisting Palestinians in Gaza has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after Israel accused several of its employees of helping Hamas carry out its deadly October 7 attack on Israeli cities. The UN has fired nine staffers in question and launched an investigation into the matter. The allegations prompted multiple countries, including the US and UK, to suspend the funding of UNRWA.
The UN has been increasingly calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and warning that the continuing Israeli offensive creates a humanitarian “catastrophe” in the Palestinian enclave. The Jewish state has maintained that it is doing all it can to minimize the civilian death toll and has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.