The Israeli military says it has discovered a Hamas militia tunnel that is said to run under the headquarters of the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA in the city of Gaza. The underground passage was 700 meters long, 18 meters deep and served as an important facility for Hamas's military intelligence service, the military said.
In the past two weeks, the military also claims to have found large quantities of weapons and explosives in the headquarters of the UN organization - which was abandoned by UNRWA in the early stages of the war. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that offices and premises at UNRWA headquarters were used by Hamas terrorists. There was no information as to when exactly this use took place, whether before or after the start of the war. The information could not initially be independently verified.
Lazzarini defends himself
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the agency had no knowledge of reports of the discovery of the tunnel under his organization's headquarters in Gaza. The UNRWA staff had already evacuated the headquarters on October 12th on the orders of the Israeli military, he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday evening. The organization has not used it since then. Whenever a suspicious cavity was found near or under the UNRWA site in the past, letters of protest were immediately sent to the parties to the conflict, Lazzarini wrote - including both Hamas and the Israeli authorities. This was also included in annual reports that were presented to the general meeting and published.
UNRWA is a humanitarian organization and has "neither the military and security expertise nor the capacity to militarily inspect what is or may be beneath its facilities," he added. At the same time, the Israeli authorities did not officially inform UNRWA about the alleged tunnel.
The aid organization has recently come under heavy criticism. There have been repeated accusations from Israel that it is working with Hamas. Specifically, some employees were accused of being involved in the terrorist acts carried out by the Islamist Hamas on October 7th in Israel. Several Western countries temporarily suspended payments to UNRWA because of the allegations, including the two largest donors, the United States and Germany. UN Secretary General António Guterres promised comprehensive information. The collaboration with several employees has been terminated.
The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist Palestinian organizations on October 7th in Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Lazzarini on X