Israel says Hamas had command tunnel under UN’s headquarters in Gaza

Israel is claiming that Hamas had command tunnels under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza headquarters, further scrutinizing the agency whose funding has been downsized following allegations that some of its staffers participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

On Saturday, army engineers took foreign press reporters on an escorted trip, guiding them through a tunnel whose opening sits next to a school. The tunnel, which the military said was around 765 yards, brought the crew underneath UNRWA Headquarters after a 20-minute walk, an army lieutenant-colonel leading the tour said, according to Reuters.

The tour came after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Security Agency (ISA) forces have been conducting a raid on targets in northern and central Gaza.

“The forces located electrical infrastructure inside the tunnel connected to UNRWA’s main headquarters, under which the underground tunnel was located, indicating that UNRWA’s facilities supplied the tunnel with electricity,” IDF and ISA said in a joint statement obtained by The Hill.

They also claimed they found weapons inside the rooms. Further, the joint investigation concluded that the office of the UNRWA was used by Hamas.

“Large quantities of weapons were found inside the rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives,” the joint statement said. “Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that the offices had in fact also been used by Hamas terrorists.”

UNRWA said it abandoned the headquarters on Oct. 12.

“UNRWA … does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises,” the UNRWA told Reuters in a statement.

“In the past, whenever (a) suspicious cavity was found close to or under UNRWA premises, protest letters were promptly filed to parties to the conflict, including both the de facto authorities in Gaza (Hamas) and the Israeli authorities.”

UNRWA runs hospitals and schools and distributes aid in Gaza. It employs 13,000 people in the Gaza Strip and has been a critical source of aid. The agency’s funding has been frozen by several countries following reports of 12 of its employees participating in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that left 1,200 dead.

The United Nations on Monday announced it had appointed an independent review group to investigate concerns around the UNRWA.

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