In response to Israeli allegations that a Hamas tunnel ran underneath the UNRWA center of Gaza City, the director of the UN agency providing relief in Gaza has stated that the organization was unaware of what lay beneath its shuttered offices.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) spokesperson Philippe Lazzarini stated late today on X that the organization “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.” Several donors withdrew funds when Israel charged UNRWA with collaborating with Hamas armed activities.
Following an invitation from the Israeli army for media to see the tunnel, the head of UNRWA made his remarks. The Israeli army did not present clear proof that Hamas fighters worked at the area, but indicated that at least a piece of the tunnel system extended below the outdoor area of agency’s offices.
Journalists observed a room filled with laptops in one of the structures, with wires extending into the earth. After that, the soldiers led them to a chamber within an underground tunnel system where they said the cables were linked.
The subterranean chamber included several wires strung along its walls and a wall of electrical cabinets featuring colorful buttons. According to the military, the chamber powered the area’s underground system as a center.
Israel has said on several occasions that demolishing the tunnel system that it claims Hamas uses to transport its militants, arms, and materials constitutes one of the primary goals of its campaign in the city.
The tunnels are thought to span the whole enclave for hundreds of kilometers, but few are aware of their complete extent. This is what some Israeli authorities refer to as the “metro.” A depth of (50 to 200 feet is estimated by experts. Israel’s tunnel assertions seem to be a part of a trend meant to link UNRWA to military activities carried out by Hamas.
The largest humanitarian organization in Gaza, UNRWA, has been suffering a major financing crisis after its key international donors led by the United States suspended its funding over “terror” charges.
After Israel began bombarding the Gaza Strip in early October, UNRWA evacuated its offices, and Lazzarini stated that UNRWA had no idea what was beneath its buildings.
“On X, it was stated that UNRWA has been informed of media reports about a tunnel beneath its headquarters in Gaza.” Although an impartial investigation into the claims is warranted, he continued, “that is not possible to undertake given Gaza is an active war zone at the moment.”
According to Lazzarini, UNRWA employees departed their offices on October 12 in response to an Israeli evacuation order, and they have not heard of any further activity there. He also mentioned that the organization conducts quarterly site inspections when there is no ongoing dispute.
Since Israel claimed that 11 of the UN agency’s staff participated in Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack into southern Israel, the organization—which provides the only means of survival for the more than two million Palestinians living in Gaza—has been under severe scrutiny.