Middle East

Israel slams ‘terror tunnel’ under UN Gaza school, branding it a war crime

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 10:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 8:51pm

Israel’s UN ambassador on Sunday said the discovery of a “terror tunnel” under a United Nations school in Hamas-ruled Gaza was proof of war crimes against Israel and Palestinian children.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said late Saturday that it had “discovered the existence of what appeared to be a tunnel underneath one of its schools in Gaza.”

“UNRWA has robustly intervened with relevant parties to protest the violation of the sanctity and disrespect of the neutrality of UN premises,” agency spokesperson Chris Gunness wrote in a statement.

“The presence of a tunnel underneath an UNRWA installation, which enjoys inviolability under international law, is unacceptable,” he added. “It places children and Agency staff at risk.”

“Yet another terror tunnel under an UNRWA schoolyard,” ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement on Sunday evening, referring to the unearthing in June of a tunnel stretching beneath two UNRWA schools in the strip’s Maghazi refugee camp.

“This is what Hamas rule looks like and this is more proof of the double war-crime committed as terror tunnels are built to attack Israelis, while using the children of Gaza as human shields,” Danon said.

“Strict oversight is needed to ensure that UN facilities are not used to protect terrorists,” he added.

Over the years, militant Islamist Hamas has built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel, which it used to launch attacks during their last conflict in 2014.

Hamas denied that it or any other militant group built the Maghazi tunnel.

UNRWA said that its latest discovery was made on October 15 and it had since sealed the “cavity” and taken the necessary measure to make the school safe.

The school, whose location was not published, reopened classes on October 25.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since the group wrested control of the territory from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Fatah signed a reconciliation accord with Hamas on October 12, under which the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is to resume control of Gaza.

Abbas wants the handover to be comprehensive and include all security institutions, but the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has said “no one” can force his group to disarm.