November 30, 2022 | Flash Brief

Palestinian Terrorist Groups Continue to Build Tunnels Under UNRWA Schools

November 30, 2022 | Flash Brief

Palestinian Terrorist Groups Continue to Build Tunnels Under UNRWA Schools

Latest Developments   

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced that it identified a “man-made cavity” beneath an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA stopped short of blaming Hamas or other militant organizations, saying that it “protested strongly to the relevant authorities.” The discovery is likely the latest example of a Palestinian terrorist organization using UN facilities, including schools, as shields for its belligerent activities against Israel.

Expert Analysis  

“The newly discovered tunnel under a UNRWA school is a fresh example of Gaza groups putting innocent children at risk by attempting to hide terrorists and their weapons behind them. Hamas has repeatedly encouraged children as young as eight to put themselves in harm’s way, promising them money if they are injured. During the May 2021 Gaza war, Hamas placed rocket launchpads in a schoolyard and located multiple military tunnels and their openings near UNRWA and other schools, including a kindergarten.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

Palestinian Use of Human Shields

On June 4, 2021, UNRWA declared it discovered a “cavity and a possible tunnel” 7.5 meters beneath a school it managed in the Gaza Strip. Unlike in yesterday’s statement, UNRWA suggested a Palestinian militant organization was responsible for building the tunnel, saying it condemned “the existence and potential use by Palestinian armed groups of such tunnels underneath its schools.” However, UNRWA did not specifically blame Hamas.

On May 19, 2021, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published evidence that Hamas launched rockets from a site near civilian structures, including a UN building, schools, a mosque, and apartment buildings.

An Admission of Guilt

Hamas has admitted to using Palestinian civilians as human shields. In an interview conducted in December 2021, Abu Khalid, a Hamas fighter, acknowledged that the organization used tunnels built under civilian infrastructure to launch rockets against Israel. Abu Khalid justified the practice as the only way to “ensure a better future for our children.”

A Strategic Weapon for Future Conflicts

Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations view tunnels as an important tool in conflicts with Israel. In an interview shortly after the May 2021 Gaza war, a Hamas fighter showed how the terrorist group used tunnels for communication, launching rockets, storing ammunition, and abducting IDF soldiers. Hamas also built a command-and-control center inside the tunnels to relay orders to militants during conflicts.

Related Analysis

Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War,” by Orde Kittrie

How The United Nations Overlooks Evidence of Hamas Human Rights Violations,” by Joe Truzman


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