GAZA: Israeli forces have found a tunnel community lots of of metres lengthy and operating partly beneath the United Nations Aid and Works Company for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA) Gaza headquarters, the navy says, calling it new proof of Hamas exploitation of the primary aid company for Palestinians.
Military engineers took reporters for international information shops by means of the passages at a time of disaster for UNRWA, which has launched an internal probe and seen a string of donor international locations freeze funding over allegations final month by Israel that a few of its employees doubled as Hamas operatives.
The Palestinians have accused Israel of falsifying data to tarnish UNRWA, which employs 13,000 folks within the Gaza Strip and has been a lifeline for the aid-dependent inhabitants for years.
The company runs faculties, major healthcare clinics and different social companies, and distributes assist, describing its actions as purely humanitarian.
UNRWA headquarters is in Gaza Metropolis, amongst northern areas that Israeli troops and tanks overran early within the four-month-old conflict towards Hamas, sending lots of of hundreds of civilians fleeing southward.
Israel’s military and the Shin Guess safety company mentioned operations in Gaza Metropolis in current weeks had led to the invention of a “tunnel shaft” close to a faculty run by the humanitarian company.
“The shaft led to an underground terror tunnel that served as a major asset of Hamas’s navy intelligence and handed beneath the constructing that serves as UNRWA’s predominant headquarters within the Gaza Strip,” they added in an announcement.
Paperwork and a stash of weapons within the UN compound itself “confirmed that the workplaces had in actual fact additionally been utilized by Hamas terrorists”, the joint assertion mentioned.
Reporters on the carefully escorted journey entered a shaft subsequent to a college on the periphery of the UN compound, descending to the concrete-lined tunnel.
Twenty minutes of strolling by means of the stifling sizzling, slim and sometimes winding passage introduced them beneath UNRWA headquarters, a military lieutenant-colonel main the tour mentioned.
The tunnel, which the navy mentioned was 700 metres lengthy and 18 metres deep, bifurcated at occasions, revealing side-rooms.
There was an workplace house, with metal safes that had been opened and emptied. There was a tiled rest room. One massive chamber was full of laptop servers, one other with industrial battery stacks.
“The whole lot is performed from right here. All of the vitality for the tunnels, which you walked by means of them are powered from right here,” mentioned the lieutenant-colonel, who gave solely his first identify as Ido.
“This is likely one of the central instructions of the intelligence. This place is likely one of the Hamas intelligence items, the place they commanded many of the fight.”
However Ido mentioned Hamas appeared to have evacuated within the face of the Israeli advance, preemptively slicing off communications cables that, in an above-ground a part of the tour, he confirmed operating by means of the ground of the UNRWA headquarters’ basement.
It appeared that heavy Israeli barrages and sustained winter rains might also have performed an element within the departure: A number of stretches of the tunnel had been clogged with dislodged sand and knee-high water.
In an announcement, UNRWA mentioned it had vacated the headquarters on Oct 12, 5 days after the war began, and was subsequently “unable to verify or in any other case remark” on the Israeli discovering.
“UNRWA … doesn’t have the navy and safety experience nor the capability to undertake navy inspections of what’s or may be beneath its premises,” the assertion mentioned.
“Up to now, at any time when (a) suspicious cavity was discovered near or beneath UNRWA premises, protest letters had been promptly filed to events to the battle, together with each the de facto authorities in Gaza (Hamas) and the Israeli authorities.”