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UNRWA Criticizes Armed Groups for Digging Tunnels under its Schools

UNRWA Criticizes Armed Groups for Digging Tunnels under its Schools

Monday, 30 October, 2017 - 11:15
File photo: A displaced Palestinian child takes shelter at a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. AFP

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has criticized armed groups without naming them for digging tunnels under schools in the Gaza Strip.

Agency spokesperson Chris Gunness wrote in a statement late Saturday that UNRWA had "discovered the existence of what appeared to be a tunnel underneath one of its schools” in northern Gaza’s Bein Hanoun.

"UNRWA has robustly intervened with relevant parties to protest the violation of the sanctity and disrespect of the neutrality of UN premises," Gunness said.

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

He also demanded “full respect for the neutrality and inviolability of United Nations premises at all times. Any activities or conduct that put beneficiaries and staff alike at risk, and undermine the ability of UNRWA staff to provide assistance to Palestine refugees in safety and security, must cease.”

One June 1, UNRWA said it found part of a tunnel that passes under two adjacent agency schools in the Maghazi camp in Gaza during construction work.

It added that the tunnel was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday.

Hamas did not comment on the UN agency’s latest discovery. But the movement’s spokesman Fawzi Barhoum had considered UNRWA’s June statement as “allegations that aim at justifying the occupation’s crimes and encouraging it to target civilians.”

Hamas had clarified the issue "with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location," Barhoum said at the time.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have built a vast network of tunnels to use them for attacks against Israeli troops in any possible confrontation, to launch rocket attacks and prevent any infiltration attempt into Gaza.

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