February 10, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

3:42 PM ET, February 10, 2024

Israel claims it has uncovered a Hamas tunnel under the UN agency’s headquarters in Gaza

From Pierre Meilhan and Lauren Izso of CNN

Israel claimed on Saturday that it had discovered a major Hamas tunnel hiding weapons beneath the headquarters of a United Nations aid agency in northern Gaza.

The alleged discovery took place as part of an Israeli military operation in the Shati and Tel al-Hawa areas of northern Gaza, the Israeli military said.

The IDF claimed in a statement that its forces had reached a tunnel shaft near a school operated by the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). However, it was not stated when the discovery was made.

CNN has not independently verified Israel’s claims.

The head of UNRWA gave a quick response: The organization’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, said the agency did not know what lies beneath its headquarters in Gaza and that “Israeli authorities have not officially informed UNRWA about the alleged tunnel” so they cannot make the claim can be treated further.

The UN agency conducts quarterly inspections of its facilities, and the last one that took place at its facilities in Gaza was completed in September, according to Lazzarini.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on Lazzarini to resign following the latest claims about a tunnel under UNRWA headquarters on Saturday. Lazzarini did not immediately respond.

Some background: Israel has long-standing problems with UNRWA and the organization has fired several employees after Israel alleged that some of its staff were involved in the Hamas attacks on October 7 last year.

The United States and at least 13 of its allies have raised funding for the agency as investigators look into the claims. UN officials have raised the alarm that defunding the organization will jeopardize its ability to provide life-saving aid in the enclave.

Gaza is home to a vast underground network of tunnels used by Hamas. The group claims there are more than 500 kilometers of underground passageways.

CNN’s Nadeen Ebrahim contributed to this report.

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