Hamas Tunnel Below UNRWA School

On Monday 31st May, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) conducted a detailed assessment of a school building damaged in the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

They discovered ‘a cavity and a possible tunnel’ at the location of an Israeli missile strike. The cavity is approximately 7.5 metres below the surface of the school, but UNRWA did not find any entry or exit points within the school premises.

The agency condemned the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools in the strongest possible terms, saying:

‘It is unacceptable that students and staff be placed at risk in such a way.’

Sadly, such statements have no impact upon terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Boys in the ruins of UNRWA schoolBoys in the ruins of UNRWA school (photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)


In the same article, UNRWA claimed that the Israeli Air Force conducted strikes that damaged the schools without advanced warning. They complained that this was contrary to the inviolability of UNRWA premises and done despite the schools being designated as emergency shelters for civilians during the 11-day conflict.

But their further statement that ‘no displaced persons were inside the school at the time of the strike and no physical injuries were caused’ suggests that there was a warning from the Israelis.

This latest discovery of a Hamas tunnel under a UN school corresponds to the result of a 2015 UN investigation that found Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad stored rockets in schools that were in active use by children; and fired rockets at Israelis from UNRWA schools.

The discovery also comes within the context of a dispute between UNRWA and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip. In an expected move last week, Hamas declared UNRWA’s Director of Operations, Matthias Schmale, persona non grata and said he will not be allowed to return.

That was a result of him expressing the opinion that there was “a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military struck over the last eleven days” – the whole of the recent conflict. Hamas were so angered that he was forced to apologise just two days later.

Astonishingly, given that he led relief efforts in the Strip, the terrorists accused Schmale of being:

“A major reason for the suffering of thousands of Palestinian refugees
and UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip.”

This whole story indicates that outside agencies cannot operate within the Gaza Strip without the approval of Hamas. And to win that approval agencies must stay in line with the Hamas account of events.

There is little doubt that this also applies to news teams reporting from Gaza, which is a plausible reason for the biased reporting that emerges during each round of conflict.

 

UPDATE 11th June 2021

KAN News has published clearer evidence of the tunnel shaft that was revealed running underneath an UNRWA school in Gaza City. This tweet shows four photos indicating the location and size of the hole punched in the tunnel’s roof.

 

KAN News tweet

The Israelis know that schools in Gaza are often used as refugee centres during periods of fighting. So, their policy is to avoid striking them unless necessary.

However, an IDF photograph taken by a drone reveals underground rocket launch pads in the grounds of another school in the Gaza Strip during the conflict in May – valid targets for defensive strikes.

 

Aerial photo of rocket launchers in school grounds