Israel: Hamas command tunnel found under UN aid agency's HQ in Gaza

Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. Omar Ishaq/dpa
Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. Omar Ishaq/dpa

The Israeli military said it has discovered a Hamas command tunnel running under the headquarters the main UN aid agency for Palestinians in Gaza.

The tunnel was 700 metres long, 18 metres deep and served as an important facility for Hamas' military intelligence service, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday evening.

The military said it found large quantities of weapons and explosives in the headquarters of the embattled UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza City, in the north of the coastal strip.

The IDF also said there were indications that the premises of the UNRWA headquarters were used by Hamas militants.

The UNRWA office was abandoned early in the war between Israel and Hamas. UNRWA's director said the agency knew nothing about the tunnel.

The UN organization has come under heavy fire after Israel accused about a dozen employees of being involved in the October 7 terror attacks led by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Several major Western donors to UNRWA, including the United States and Germany, temporarily suspended payments to the Gaza relief agency over the allegations.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has created an independent panel to investigate the allegations and several employees have been sacked. UNRWA employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said that his organization "did not know" about the tunnel under the headquarters.

UNRWA staff left the offices Gaza City on October 12 "following the Israeli evacuation orders and as bombardment intensified in the area," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday night.

"We have not used that compound since we left it nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there."

He continued: "UNRWA is a human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises."