UNRWA Admits Attack Tunnel Under School as Hamas ‘Gradually’ Moves Military HQs from Residential Buildings

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JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty

In a statement issued on Saturday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) admitted the discovery of a terror tunnel under a Gaza school it operates, while the Hamas terror group admitted that having military and security headquarters within residential areas was a “major problem” during the recent bout of fighting which began after Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at the Jewish state, leading the terror group to claim that it is currently transferring their locations. 

Condemning “all parties,” the UNRWA statement called for the need to respect the “neutrality and inviolability of UNRWA installations” at all times. 

“UNRWA is deeply concerned about actions by parties to the conflict during recent hostilities in Gaza that caused damage to its installations and violated its inviolability and neutrality,” the statement began.

After criticizing the Israeli Air Force for conducting strikes that caused damage to two UNRWA boys’ schools and which “calls into question respect for the fundamental principle of inviolability” — though admitting that no injuries resulted — the special UN refugee agency admitted that a “possible tunnel” was discovered underneath the school premises.

While investigating how to secure the building from the missiles, a detailed assessment on 31 May 2021 revealed what appears to be a cavity and a possible tunnel, at the location of the missile strike. The depth of the cavity is approximately 7.5 meters below the surface of the school. 

Despite condemning “the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools in the strongest possible terms,” the agency  demanded that “all parties” desist from any activities or conduct that threatens UNRWA installations, which are described as “inviolable.” 

“Letters of protest regarding this incident have been sent to both parties,” the statement noted.

In public remarks made the next day thanking Iran and Hezbollah for their financial aid to the Gaza factions following the recent armed conflict with Israel, Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar admitted that having military and security headquarters within residential areas, such as high-rise buildings, was a “major problem” and that the terror group is currently “gradually” transferring them to other locations.

With regard to our military or security headquarters that are located in residential areas — this was a major problem in the previous bouts [of fighting], and at the resistance factions, we worked to gradually transfer these headquarters from populated areas. We have succeeded in removing many of them, but some still need to be transferred, and Allah willing, this operation will continue. We have taken this issue into consideration, and we have taken care of transferring many of the headquarters, especially those at the high-rise and residential buildings. We have done significant work and Allah willing, we will complete it.

As a result, many took to Twitter to blast the Gaza terror organization.

“Hamas moving their military headquarters, ‘especially those in the high-rises and residential buildings’, out of residential areas,” wrote one Twitter user. “Good, that will save some noncombatants’ lives! But no mention of rocket launchers, weapons caches, and tunnels—they’re also in residential areas.”

“For a moment I thought Hamas actually is removing its forces from residential areas, which would be a major shift of tactics,” another Twitter user wrote. “The operative word is *Headquarters*.”

“Shorter Hamas: We committed a war crime,” wrote another.

This is not the first time the agency admitted that its installations were used as cover for the Hamas terror group.

In 2017, the UNRWA stated it had discovered an attack tunnel underneath one of its schools.

The UNRWA’s recent announcement comes after Matthias Schmale, director of the agency in Gaza, was recalled from his post after he described IDF strikes during the recent conflict as having appeared to be “precise” and “sophisticated” in an interview with Israeli TV.

Last month, Associated Press (AP) Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace stated she was “stunned” after Israeli forces bombed a Gaza building containing media offices after Jerusalem claimed it also served as a terrorist headquarters housing Hamas’ military intelligence and research and development unit as well as offices of the terrorist-designated Islamic Jihad.

In April, the Biden administration was applauded by the UNRWA, after having offered it $250 million in funding, sidestepping a 2018 law that prevents U.S. taxpayer dollars from supporting the Palestinian Authority.

The direct Palestinian aid – with no concessions asked for or offered in return – is in direct contrast to the position taken by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

In 2018, President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law, which prevents the U.S. from providing economic support and other funding to the Palestinian Authority while it continues to offer stipends for the families of deceased terrorists, or to pay terrorists in Israeli prisons — a policy referred to by critics as “pay-for-slay.”

This past Sunday, the Palestinian Authority handed the family of a Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Israelis nearly $42,000.

Trump also cut funding to the UNRWA because of concerns that it has supported terror. 

President Joe Biden’s massive $6 trillion budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year includes hundreds of millions of dollars in restored aid to the Palestinians, some of which President Donald Trump had suspended over concerns about Palestinian support for terror.

In a statement Friday, the State Department noted:

The budget request funds assistance programs and humanitarian aid for Palestinians, including support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The United States will maintain steadfast support for Israel as the Administration renews relations with Palestinian leadership, restores economic and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, and works to advance freedom, prosperity, and security for the Israeli and Palestinian people alike.

The precise amount of funding was unclear, but Secretary of State Tony Blinken said last week in a visit to the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership in Ramallah that the U.S. is in the process of sending $360 million in aid to the Palestinians.

Much of the new aid will be directed toward rebuilding parts of Gaza damaged in the recent war with Israel, though it is not clear how to prevent that funding from flowing through the hands of the terrorist group Hamas, which rules the territory. Much funding will be handled by USAID Director Samantha Power, an official notorious for her past hostility to Israel.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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