The Israeli military has announced the discovery of a Hamas tunnel beneath the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City. According to the Israeli army and the Shin Bet security agency, the tunnel was found near a school operated by UNRWA.
In a joint statement, the military and security agency revealed that the tunnel, measuring 700 meters (765 yards) in length and located 18 meters underground, served as a significant asset for Hamas’s military intelligence. The tunnel passed under the building housing UNRWA’s main headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
The statement also claimed that electrical infrastructure within the tunnel was connected to UNRWA’s facilities, indicating that the agency’s headquarters supplied electricity to the tunnel. Additionally, documents and a cache of weapons were allegedly found within the UN compound, suggesting that Hamas terrorists had utilized the offices.
UNRWA responded to the allegations by stating that its staff had evacuated the Gaza City compound on October 12, following intensified bombardment in the area. The agency asserted that it had not operated from the compound since then and was unaware of any activity that may have taken place there.
The compound was last inspected in September 2023, according to UNRWA’s statement. The agency emphasized that any suspicious activity near or under its premises had been previously reported to both Hamas authorities in Gaza and Israeli officials, and had also been made public.
UNRWA called for an independent inquiry into the allegations, stating that current conditions in Gaza, which is an active war zone, make such an investigation impossible. The agency also noted that Israeli authorities had not officially informed UNRWA about the alleged tunnel.
The discovery comes amid ongoing scrutiny of UNRWA, which recently dismissed several staff members following Israeli accusations of their involvement in attacks by Hamas. The UN has initiated two separate probes into UNRWA, one examining the claims of staff participation in attacks and the other reviewing the agency’s overall political neutrality.