New allegations – Israel discovers tunnel system under UNRWA headquarters – News


The UNRWA chief emphasizes that he knew nothing about the tunnel system. Israel is now again calling for his resignation.

  • Israeli forces have discovered a tunnel system several hundred meters long that runs partially under the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza.
  • This is further evidence that Hamas is infiltrating the most important aid organization for the Palestinians, according to the Israeli military.
  • Meanwhile, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini emphasizes that he knew nothing about a tunnel system under the UNRWA headquarters.

The UNRWA headquarters is located in Gaza City in the north of the Gaza Strip. Army engineers led reporters from foreign news agencies through the corridors of the discovered tunnel system.

Next to a school on the edge of the UN compound, they entered a shaft and climbed into the concrete-lined tunnel. A twenty-minute walk through the narrow corridor brought them under the UNRWA headquarters, said the army lieutenant colonel who led the tour.


Lieutenant Colonel “Ido” walks through a tunnel under the UNRWA compound. (February 8, 2024)

Keystone/ Ariel Schalit

The tunnel, which the military said is 700 meters long and 18 meters deep, split in places, revealing side rooms. There was an office room with steel safes that had been opened and emptied. “Everything is controlled from here,” said the lieutenant colonel. “This is one of Hamas’s intelligence units from which Hamas commands most of the fighting.”

A soldier runs across a terrain.


The entrance to the tunnel system is said to be near here. (Image: Gaza City, February 8, 2024)

Keystone/ Ariel Schalit

In view of the Israeli advance, Hamas withdrew from this tunnel system. But persistent rain could also have played a role: several sections of the tunnel were filled with deposited sand and knee-high water, as reporters reported.

UNRWA knew nothing

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the agency had no knowledge of the tunnel system under UNRWA headquarters. The UNRWA staff had already evacuated the headquarters on October 12th on the orders of the Israeli military, he wrote on X on Saturday evening.

The organization has not used it since then. Whenever a suspicious cavity was discovered near or under the UNRWA site in the past, letters of protest were immediately sent to the parties to the conflict, Lazzarini wrote – including both Hamas and the Israeli authorities.

This was also included in annual reports that were presented to the general meeting and published. UNRWA is a humanitarian organization and has “neither the military and security expertise nor the capacity to militarily inspect what is or could be under its facilities,” he added.

Israel calls for UNRWA chief to resign

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz rejected Lazzarini’s account as “absurd” and called for the immediate replacement of the UNRWA chief. “His immediate resignation is essential,” Katz wrote on X.

The aid organization has recently come under heavy criticism. There have been repeated accusations from the Israeli side that they are working with Hamas. Specifically, some employees were accused of being involved in the terrorist acts carried out by the Islamist Hamas on October 7 in Israel.

Several Western countries temporarily suspended payments to UNRWA because of the allegations, including the two largest donors, the USA and Germany.

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