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Israel’s military claims to have discovered an extensive tunnel
Israel’s Military claims to have discovered an extensive tunnel network beneath the Gaza headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), allegedly used by Hamas for exploitation. This discovery comes as a new piece of evidence amid escalating tensions in the region.
According to military engineers, the Israel’s Military Forces (IDF) uncovered the network during a crisis, leading foreign journalists through the route intended for UNRWA during times of emergency. This revelation has sparked an internal investigation, as several countries that previously donated to Israel’s allegations have halted funding, suspecting some employees to have doubled as Hamas operatives.
Palestinians have accused Israel of spreading misinformation to discredit UNRWA, which provides employment to 13,000 people in the Gaza Strip and has been a lifeline for the aid-dependent population for years. The agency operates schools, primary health clinics, and other social services, distributing aid while fully adhering to humanitarian principles.
The UNRWA headquarters is located in Gaza City, an area seized by Israeli forces during a conflict with Hamas four months ago, resulting in the displacement of thousands of civilians towards the south.
During a recent security-cleared journey, reporters ventured into a shaft adjacent to a school within the premises, descending into a concrete tunnel. Led by a senior IDF officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ido, the journey involved navigating through winding and sometimes hazardous routes for about twenty minutes until reaching beneath the UNRWA headquarters.
Describing the tunnel, the IDF stated that it was 700 meters long and 18 meters deep, often divided into two sections, revealing adjacent rooms. These rooms included an office space with unlocked steel safes and a tiled restroom. One large chamber housed computer servers, while another was filled with industrial battery stacks.
“Everything is operated from here. All the energy of the tunnels through which you walked is controlled from here,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ido, who only disclosed his first name.
One of the main pillars of intelligence is this. This place is one of Hamas’ intelligence units, where they mostly commanded the war,” he added.
However, Ido mentioned that it seemed Hamas had abandoned the site before the Israeli advance, having already cut communication cables. In an upper part of the journey, they demonstrated their escape through the floor of the headquarters’ workshop.
It appears that heavy Israeli bombardment and continuous winter rains may have also played a role in the departure: several parts of the tunnel were filled with loose sand and knee-deep water.
In a statement, UNRWA declared that it vacated the headquarters five days after the outbreak of hostilities on October 12, rendering it “unable to confirm or otherwise comment” on the Israeli allegations.
The statement added, “UNRWA… has neither the military nor security expertise, nor the capability to conduct military inspections of its premises or surroundings.”
“In the past, whenever a suspicious cave was found near or below a (UN) premises, immediate protest letters were filed, involving both Gaza (Hamas) and Israeli officials,” the statement continued.
Supporters of UNRWA argue it’s the sole agency equipped to assist Palestinians in escalating humanitarian crises. Israel contends that the agency is “compromised by Hamas” and should be replaced. Hamas has denied operating civilian facilities.
Ido told reporters, “We know that they (Hamas) have people working in UNRWA. We want every international organization to operate in Gaza. It’s not an issue. Our problem is Hamas.”
Due to the lack of reception in the tunnel, it became impossible to geolocate it under the UNRWA headquarters. Instead, journalists were instructed to deposit personal belongings in a bucket, which was then lowered into a vertical hole in the courtyard of the headquarters via a rope. They later reconnected with their belongings upon exiting the tunnel.
As a condition of the journey, the Israel’s Military prohibited taking photographs or certain equipment, such as maps, in the convoy of armored vehicles. Approval was also sought before broadcasting any captured images and video footage.
In the midst of ongoing tensions, this discovery has intensified the geopolitical landscape of the region, raising questions about the role of humanitarian agencies and the complexity of conflicts in the Middle East.