The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have discovered a series of tunnels under a major United Nations agency tied to Hamas and Islamic terrorism in Gaza, the Times of Israel reported on Saturday.
IDF discovered a network of Hamas logistics tunnels and a data hub, featuring electrical rooms, computer servers and living spaces, beneath the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Times reported on Saturday. UNRWA had multiple sources of funding cut after it was discovered that it employed several staffers who participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel and many more staffers had ties to Islamic terrorism in the region.
The IDF had little or no previous knowledge about the Hamas tunnels existing under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters, according to the Times. The logistics and data hub under UNRWA’s headquarters was discovered by Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service as a result of interrogations of captured Hamas terrorists.
These findings were found within @UNRWA facilities:
Acting on ISA intelligence, the forces discovered a tunnel shaft near an UNRWA school, leading to an underground terrorist tunnel beneath UNRWA's main headquarters. The forces found electrical infrastructure inside the tunnel… pic.twitter.com/n5EWJpyI4o
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) February 10, 2024
“The IDF was here previously, the first time was to destroy the enemy, but when we were here the last time we collected a lot of intelligence documents and findings, a lot of prisoners, and thanks to this we reached here,” IDF Col. Benny Aharon told the Times. “Now we carried out a targeted operation to take this capability away.”
“We had a basis of information, but not enough to be able to dig down 20 meters and find it, we needed a bit more,” Aharon told the Times. “There’s information we get from prisoners we capture, from computers we find, from documents, maps.”
UNRWA Gaza head of operations Philippe Lazzarini claimed on Saturday he “did not know” that Hamas was operating and conducting logistics underground beneath the agency’s headquarters, according to the Times. “We have not used that compound since we left it [on Oct. 12] nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there,” Lazzarini said in a statement on Saturday.
The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories: Judea and Samaria and towards the Gaza Strip (COGAT), the organization coordinating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, pushed back on that claim, insisting that UNRWA leadership was aware of Hamas’ activities beneath the tunnels.
“Oh, you knew,” COGAT responded to Lazzarani on Saturday. “Digging a tunnel takes longer than 4 months. We invited senior officials to see, and during past meetings with you and other UN officials, we stated Hamas’s use of UNRWA’s headquarters. You chose to ignore the facts so you can later try and deny them.”
Subterranean facility for terror group’s intel needs, beneath UN complex in upscale #Rimal neighborhood, discovered after interrogations of Palestinian prisoners
— Kim “filterless” Wexler MA JD (@KimWexlerMAJD) February 10, 2024
UNRWA fired multiple staffers in late January for their alleged participation in the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks against Israel. It was later discovered that over 1,000 UNRWA staffers had direct ties to Islamic terrorism, according to U.S. intelligence reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Multiple Western nations, including the U.S., have suspended funding for UNRWA pending an investigation into the organization’s ties to terrorism.
Israel is carrying out a sweeping counteroffensive against Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for the group’s terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 that killed over 1,200 civilians. The IDF has secured most of north Gaza and is preparing to push into and secure the southernmost part of the region, specifically Rafah, which borders Egypt, according to the WSJ.
UNRWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.