Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) has called for the chief of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to resign after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed to have found a Hamas nerve center beneath the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. The IDF stated that they discovered electrical infrastructure and rows of computer services underneath the UNRWA compound. However, journalists who visited the site were not provided with definitive proof that Hamas militants had carried out operations in the tunnel.
Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said in a post on social media that the agency was unaware of what was happening beneath its headquarters and only became aware of the tunnel through media reports. He mentioned that the UNRWA staff had vacated the compound in October 2023 and the last inspection was conducted in September 2023.
Lazzarini acknowledged that the discovery warrants an independent inquiry but claimed that it would not be possible due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Israel's UN Ambassador, Gilad Erdan, responded by calling for Lazzarini's resignation. Erdan accused UNRWA of refusing to search all its facilities in Gaza despite Israel providing evidence of Hamas exploiting the agency.
Erdan also alleged that UNRWA employees were involved in helping Hamas stage terror attacks on Israel in October 2023. Lazzarini stated at the time that the employees involved had been dismissed, and an investigation was launched. Following these allegations, several nations, including the US, UK, and Canada, paused funding for UNRWA.
The UNRWA in Gaza has not yet responded to requests for comment. The situation highlights the ongoing tensions between Israel and Hamas, as well as the challenges faced by the UNRWA in maintaining neutrality and accountability in a conflict zone. It remains to be seen whether an independent inquiry into the tunnel discovery will be possible in the future.