Monday, 12 February 2024 | UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini responded to the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] discovery of a tunnel under the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza, where a Hamas server farm was found. “UNRWA did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza,” he wrote in a post on X.
“UNRWA staff left its headquarters in Gaza City on October 12 following the Israeli evacuation orders and as bombardment intensified in the area. We have not used that compound since we left it, nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there,” Lassarini wrote. “We understand, through media reporting, that the Israeli Army has deployed troops within the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City. We are therefore unable to confirm or otherwise comment on these reports,” he wrote.
“In times of ‘no active conflict’ UNRWA inspects inside its premises every quarter. The last inspection for the UNRWA Gaza premises was completed in September 2023. UNRWA is a human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises. In the past, whenever suspicious cavity was found close to or under UNRWA premises, protest letters were promptly filed to parties to the conflict, including both the de facto authorities in Gaza (Hamas) and the Israeli authorities. The matter was consistently reported in annual reports presented to the General Assembly and made public,” he wrote.
He said there was no way to independently verify the claims and that UNRWA was not officially notified by Israel of the alleged tunnel uncovered.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded to Lazzarini’s words, writing in his X account that “the exposure of UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters’ deep involvement with Hamas, including its use for terror activities and as an access point to terror tunnels, requires immediate action. Lazzarini’s claim that he was unaware of the tunnel is not only absurd but also an affront to common sense. His prompt resignation is imperative.”
Later, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, also commented on the UNRWA commissioner’s denial in a post on X. “Lazzarini, it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t want to know. We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did you refuse, you chose to stick your head in the sand. Take responsibility and resign today! Every day, we find more proof that in Gaza, the UN equals Hamas and vice versa. Anything the UN says or claims about Gaza cannot be trusted.”
Posted on February 12, 2024
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