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  • Monday, 26 February 2024
Israeli Forces Uncover Tunnel Network Under UNRWA's Gaza Headquarters

Israeli Forces Uncover Tunnel Network Under UNRWA's Gaza Headquarters

Israeli military forces have uncovered a sophisticated tunnel network, extending hundreds of meters beneath the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza. The discovery sheds light on Hamas' exploitation of civilian infrastructure, exacerbating tensions in the region.

Amidst a backdrop of heightened scrutiny, army engineers escorted reporters from foreign news outlets through the labyrinthine passages, revealing evidence of Hamas' infiltration of UNRWA facilities. The timing of the discovery coincides with a crisis within UNRWA, following allegations by Israel that some of its staff members doubled as Hamas operatives, prompting donor countries to freeze funding.

Palestinian authorities have vehemently denied Israel's accusations, accusing them of tarnishing UNRWA's reputation. With over 13,000 employees and a wide array of humanitarian services, including education and healthcare, UNRWA has long been a vital lifeline for Gaza's aid-dependent population.

The closely guided tour took journalists through a shaft adjacent to a school within the UN compound, descending into a concrete-lined tunnel. The stifling confines of the passage, extending approximately 700 meters and reaching depths of 18 meters, revealed a network of interconnected chambers. These spaces, previously utilized by Hamas for intelligence operations, were equipped with office spaces, computer servers, and industrial batteries.

According to the Israeli military, the tunnel served as a central command center for Hamas intelligence, orchestrating combat operations and facilitating communication. However, evidence suggested that Hamas had evacuated the premises in response to Israeli advancements, severing communication cables and abandoning key installations.

UNRWA, in a statement, clarified that it had vacated the headquarters early in the conflict, rendering it unable to verify the Israeli findings. The agency emphasized its humanitarian mandate and reiterated its commitment to neutrality in conflict zones.

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence linking the tunnel to UNRWA, the discovery underscores the broader challenges faced by humanitarian agencies operating in conflict zones. Israel has called for the replacement of UNRWA, alleging infiltration by Hamas, while Hamas denies any involvement in civilian facilities.

The tour's strict conditions, including restrictions on photography of military intelligence and approval requirements for media transmission, highlight the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Journalists were subjected to stringent security measures, emphasizing the gravity of the situation and the complexities of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

As tensions persist in the region, the discovery of the tunnel network underscores the need for heightened vigilance and transparency in humanitarian operations. With Gaza's civilian population caught in the crossfire, the imperative for impartiality and accountability remains paramount in navigating the complexities of conflict zones.

 

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