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11 Feb, 2024 01:47

‘Terror tunnel’ found under UN agency HQ – Israel

The IDF says the underground compound was vital to Hamas’ activities in Gaza
‘Terror tunnel’ found under UN agency HQ – Israel

The Israeli military says 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.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a 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.

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.”

The Israeli army also claimed that “large quantities” of weapons, including rifles and grenades, were found at the agency's main office.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini responded to the claims by saying 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).

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 and launched an investigation into the matter. The allegations prompted multiple countries, including the US and UK, to suspend funding of the UNRWA.

The UN has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, warning that the Israeli operation is creating a humanitarian catastrophe in the Palestinian enclave. The Jewish state has said it is doing everything it can to minimize the civilian death toll and has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

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