The UN and Israel slammed Hamas for utilizing the premises of a UN school in Gaza to shield its terror tunnels, despite the danger to the children.
The United Nations (UN) agency for the so-called Palestinian refugees condemned the Hamas terror group on Friday after discovering a terror tunnel running under two of its schools for boys in Gaza.
Hamas has built a sophisticated network of terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip and running into Israel, used for storing weapons, smuggling and terrorist infiltrations into Israel.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said Friday it “condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms.”
“It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” it said, adding that it “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas.”
The UN agency said it was sealing the tunnel under its premises and will ban students and staff from the building until the issue is resolved.
The tunnel was found on June 1 under the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School during construction work, according to UNWRA. Both schools were empty at the time due to summer vacation.
During the 2014 war, Hamas terrorists on several occasions made their way into Israel through terror tunnels, although they did not manage to reach civilian areas.
Israel destroyed 32 tunnels during that conflict and has since made neutralizing the tunnel threat a top priority, while exposing several more since then.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his group “strongly condemns UNRWA’s allegations,” claiming that Hamas had clarified the issue with other terror groups who denied having any “resistance-related works” in the area.
A UN inquiry into the 2014 Gaza war confirmed that at least three UNRWA schools were used by Palestinian terrorists to hide weapons and that rockets were likely fired from them on at least two occasions. UNRWA confirmed that 20 rockets were found in one of its vacant schools in Gaza, but nonetheless returned the deadly weapons to Hamas terrorists.
“I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms,” UN chief Ban Ki-Moon wrote at the time in a cover letter for the UN Board of Inquiry report. “It serves to undermine the confidence that all concerned should have that United Nations premises are civilian objects and may therefore not be made the object of attack.”
Hamas Cruelty ‘Knows No Bounds’
Israel has long exposed Hamas for exploiting civilian infrastructure for terror purposes.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon reacted harshly to the discovery of the tunnels below the UNRWA schools.
“This tunnel verifies what we have always known, that the cruelty of Hamas knows no bounds as they use the children of Gaza as human shields. Instead of UN schools serving as centers of learning and education, Hamas has turned them into terror bases for attacks on Israel,” Danon charged.
This is the latest in a number of recently exposed incidents highlighting the ties between UNRWA personnel and Hamas terrorists. Danon called on the UN Secretary General and the Security Council (UNSC) to intervene and implement strict oversight over the UN body.
“The UN must act immediately to ensure that their structures and institutions are not being used to harbor the terror infrastructure of Hamas,” Danon stated.
Following discovery of the tunnel, Israel submitted a letter of protest to the UNSC.