TEL AVIV, Israel – The Israeli government is asking the United Nations Security Council to condemn Hamas after the terror group reportedly built a tunnel underneath two Gaza schools run by the UN Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA.)
Hamas regularly uses tunnels to smuggle arms and supplies in and out of the Gaza Strip and has dug extensive “attack tunnels” that cross into Israeli territory and have been used to commit acts of terrorism. But the discovery of a terror tunnel beneath two UN-run schools made some question whether the UNRWA was actually surprised by it or whether it was secretly colluding with a terror group.
Danny Danon, Israeli ambassador to the UN, sent a letter to the UN Security Council, urging UN’s most powerful body to openly rebuke Hamas.
“The latest finding verifies once again that Hamas’s cruelty knows no limits, including endangering centers of learning and education, and using children as human shields,” Danon wrote, according to the Times of Israel. “I call on the Security Council to strongly and unequivocally condemn Hamas and its repeated abuse of civilian infrastructure, and designate this group as a terrorist organization.”
The tunnel beneath the UNRWA schools was apparently discovered June 1, but the news was only widely reported last Friday when the organization’s spokesman, Chris Gunness, issued a statement condemning the tunnel "in the strongest possible terms."
“It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” Gunness said. “The construction and presence of tunnels under UN premises are incompatible with the respect of privileges and immunities owed to the United Nations under applicable international law, which provides that UN premises shall be inviolable. The sanctity and neutrality of UN premises must be preserved at all times.”
He said the agency's immediate priority is to seal the tunnel.
The tunnel was found under the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School in the Gaza Strip while the two schools were under construction.
UNRWA was founded in 1949 to aid Palestinians who fled when Arab armies invaded the new State of Israel in 1948. It is controversial for several reasons, among them its decision to list as refugees not only those who fled but also their descendants, a unique policy that is not followed anywhere else in the world.
In an article for The Tower, Asaf Romirowsky said that UNRWA has since become all but indistinguishable from the Palestinian national cause.
“Today, it is essentially a massive social welfare system serving millions of Palestinians, primarily in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan,” he wrote. “At the same time, its activities go well beyond simple humanitarianism. It plays a distinctly political role in Palestinian society, working to further the cause of Palestinian nationalism through politicized education, activism, anti-Israel propaganda, and other activities.”
UNRWA has also been accused of colluding with terrorists but it has adamantly denied doing so.
“UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries,” James Lindsay, a former UNRWA official, said in a 2009 report, “and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, from joining its staff.”