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UN agency condemns suspected tunnel below Gaza school

UNRWA says man-made cavity "exposes children and Agency staff to significant security and safety risks”

A member of Saraya al-Quds, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, takes position inside a military tunnel near the "Sword of Jerusalem" festival in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 18, 2022. (Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance)

A United Nations agency took the rare step on Tuesday of condemning the use of civilian facilities in Gaza for terrorism activities. 

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – established to address the Arab refugee crisis that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli War – said it had uncovered a “man-made cavity” below a school that it runs in the Gaza Strip

“The Agency protested strongly to the relevant authorities in Gaza to express outrage and condemnation of the presence of such a structure underneath one of its installations,” UNRWA said in a press release without explicitly naming Hamas. “The presence of a man-made cavity underneath the grounds of an UNRWA school is a serious violation of the Agency’s neutrality and a breach of international law. Moreover, it exposes children and Agency staff to significant security and safety risks.” 

Hamas – the Islamist terrorist organization which runs Gaza – has a network of tunnels burrowed underground throughout the Strip to store weapons and hide operatives.

Along with tunnels under civilian infrastructure, Israel has long accused both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad of operating from schools, hospitals and mosques – a war crime under international law – knowing that the Israeli military tries to avoid hitting civilian targets. 

During the May 2021 war between Hamas and Israel, Israeli forces targeted a terror tunnel which included a cavity beneath a Gaza school. Following the ceasefire, UNWRA indicated that 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. UNRWA discovered the existence of a possible tunnel in the context of the investigation of the fired missiles,” the U.N. agency said.

While UNRWA’s criticism of terrorist tunnels beneath schools is a positive step, the U.N. agency has been affiliated with anti-Jewish terrorist organizations, according to Israel and Jewish human rights organizations. Some UNRWA officials were even reported to have been members of terrorist organizations. 

Despite pledges to end its hateful anti-Jewish curriculum, UNWRA schools continue disseminating racist propaganda against Israel and the Jewish people. 

The deeply entrenched bias against Israel at the U.N. extends far beyond UNRWA. On Wednesday, the U.N. General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution that commemorates the “Nakba,” “catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the modern State of Israel’s  establishment. To date, no other country’s birth was ever branded a “catastrophe” by the international community. 

The resolution passed with 90 votes in favor and 30 against. Virtually every Middle Eastern state voted in favor of the resolution, including Arab states that have formal peace agreements with Israel, such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

Countries that voted against the resolution included Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Australia. 

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan blasted the resolution, saying, “Try to imagine the international community commemorating your country’s Independence Day by calling it a disaster. What a disgrace.” 

The Israeli ambassador urged the international body to reject the anti-Israeli propaganda disseminated by the Palestinian Authority and its global supporters. 

“The Palestinians’ lies must no longer be accepted on the world stage, just as this body must stop allowing the Palestinians to continue pulling its strings. I urge you all to stop blindly supporting the Palestinians’ libels,” he said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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