JERUSALEM, Israel – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for taking care of Palestinian refugees, announced over the weekend it found what “appears to be a cavity and a possible tunnel” under one of its schools in the Gaza Strip.
The UNRWA Zaitoun Preparatory Boys’ School “A” and Elementary Boys’ School “A” were damaged in Israeli missile strikes during the 11-day war with Gaza last month.
UNRWA said it found the cavity and possible tunnel while examining the aftermath of an Israeli 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 missile,” it said in a statement
UNRWA said the underground structure was not connected to the school and there is no “indication of the existence of any entry or exit points for the tunnel within the premises,” it added.
The agency condemned Palestinian terrorists who may build tunnels under its schools.
“UNRWA condemns the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff be placed at risk in such a way,” the organization stated.
UNRWA also criticized Israel for damaging the school during its airstrikes, explaining that it was an emergency shelter and should not have been attacked.
“The Agency’s installations, like all United Nations facilities, are marked as such and fly a United Nations flag on the roof. UNRWA shares the coordinates of all of its installations periodically with relevant Israeli authorities and in times of conflict, the coordinates of designated emergency shelters are shared daily,” UNRWA said.
“UNRWA demands that all parties desist from any activities or conduct that put beneficiaries and staff at risk and undermine the ability of UNRWA staff to provide assistance to Palestine refugees in safety and security,” the agency added.
Israel has long held that the ruling Hamas terror group in Gaza embeds its military infrastructure in civilian areas and digs tunnels used by its members. Israeli military leaders said during last month’s war that while its airstrikes did cause unintended civilian casualties, it was targeting Gaza terrorists.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar admitted to the group having military headquarters in civilian populations saying it "posed a huge problem" and that Hamas has "initiated a gradual transfer operation with the aim of relocating a significant number of military headquarters from within the civilian population."
UNRWA recently came under fire from Hamas after its leader in the coastal enclave, Matthias Schmale, said during an interview with Israeli media that he did not dispute Israel’s claims that its airstrikes were “precise.”
He later apologized for his statement after facing backlash from Hamas, saying: “.. precision was there but there was [an] unacceptable and unbearable loss of life on the civilian side.” Schmale was also forced to flee Gaza after Hamas accused him of being biased towards Israel.
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