Israel Discovers Hamas Control Center Beneath UN Palestinian Relief Agency at Gaza

The head of Unrwa says the agency had no knowledge of the underground facilities, but the findings merit an ‘independent inquiry.’

AP/Ariel Schalit
Israeli soldiers enter the Unrwa headquarter where the military discovered tunnels that Hamas terrorists used to attack its forces. AP/Ariel Schalit

Israeli officials say that they have uncovered tunnels and a massive electronic intelligence facility directly underneath and connected to the main headquarters of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza City, known by its acronym, Unrwa.

The headquarters, on the western edge of Gaza City, are now completely decimated. To locate the tunnel, forces overturned mounds of red earth to produce a crater-like hole giving way to a small tunnel entrance. The unearthed shaft led to an underground passageway that an Associated Press journalist estimated stretched for at least a quarter of a mile, with at least 10 doors.

At one point, journalists were able to gaze upward from the tunnel, through a hole, and make eye contact with soldiers standing in a courtyard within the Unrwa facility.

Inside one of the Unrwa buildings, journalists saw a room full of computers with wires stretching down into the ground. Soldiers then showed them a room in the underground tunnel where the wires connected.

That underground room bore a wall of electrical cabinets with multicolored buttons and was lined with dozens of cables. The room served as a hub powering tunnel infrastructure in the area.

“Twenty meters above us is the Unrwa headquarters,” said an Israeli army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Ido. “This is the electricity room, you can see all around here. The batteries, the electricity on walls, everything is conducted from here, all the energy for the tunnels which you walked through them are powered from here.”

The head of Unrwa, Philippe Lazzarini, said Saturday the agency had no knowledge of the underground facilities, but the findings merit an “independent inquiry,” which the agency is unable to perform due to the ongoing war.

Mr. Lazzarini said he had visited the facility multiple times and did not recognize the electrical room. In a statement, he wrote that Unrwa had conducted a regular quarterly inspection of the facility in September. He said the agency has not revisited the headquarters since staff evacuated October 12.

“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,” read the statement.

Also in the tunnel, journalists saw a small bathroom with a toilet and a faucet, a room with shelves and a room with two small vehicles in it that the terrorists used to traverse the tunnel network. The military said Saturday night that the tunnel began at a Unrwa school, and was 765 yards long and 20 yards deep.

The military said forces also uncovered rifles, ammunition, grenades, and explosives in the facility that have been used by the terrorists. 

Israel has found similar primitive quarters in tunnels across Gaza over the course of its 4 month-long campaign in Gaza, many of them near or in mosques, schools and other UN facilities. One of the main objectives of the Israeli offensive has been to destroy that network, which is used by Hamas to move fighters, weapons and supplies throughout the territory.

Recent reports that dozens of staff members participated in the Hamas attack on Israel October 7 plunged the agency into a financial crisis, prompting major donor states to suspend their funding and prompting official investigations. The agency says that Israel has also frozen its bank account, embargoed aid shipments and canceled its tax benefits.


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