GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces uncovered a tunnel network running partly under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza, the military reported, citing it as evidence of Hamas’ use of the primary Palestinian relief agency’s facilities.
Army engineers guided foreign reporters through the tunnel amid a crisis for UNRWA, which is conducting an internal investigation and facing funding freezes from donors following Israel’s allegations last month of staff doubling as Hamas operatives.
Palestinians have accused Israel of fabricating information to discredit UNRWA, a crucial aid organization in Gaza employing 13,000 people. The agency, focused on humanitarian activities, runs schools, healthcare clinics, and distributes aid in the region.
During the four-month war against Hamas, Israeli troops and tanks entered northern Gaza areas, including Gaza City, where UNRWA’s headquarters is located, causing many civilians to flee southward.
Reporters, escorted by the military, entered a shaft near a school on the UN compound’s edge, descending into a concrete-lined tunnel. A 20-minute walk through the hot, narrow passage led underneath the UNRWA headquarters, as explained by an army lieutenant-colonel leading the tour.
The 700-meter-long, 18-meter-deep tunnel featured side rooms, an office with emptied steel safes, a tiled toilet, a chamber with computer servers, and another with industrial batteries.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ido, who only provided his first name, said, “This is one of Hamas’ central intelligence commands, controlling most combat operations from here.”
Ido noted that Hamas seemed to have evacuated ahead of the Israeli advance, severing communication cables visible in the UNRWA headquarters’ basement during the above-ground tour portion.
Sections of the tunnel showed signs of collapse and water accumulation, possibly due to Israeli barrages and winter rains.
UNRWA, which left its headquarters on Oct. 12, five days after the war’s start, stated it could neither confirm nor comment on the Israeli discovery.