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Hamas had command tunnel under UN headquarters in Gaza: Israeli military

11 Feb 2024

Gaza City [Israel], February 11 (ANI): In a startling revelation, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) uncovered a top-secret Hamas data center strategically concealed beneath the Gaza Strip headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), The Times of Israel reported.

The subterranean facility, equipped with living quarters for Hamas operatives, an electrical room, and industrial battery power banks, was ingeniously positioned to avoid detection and airstrikes.

The discovery comes amid heightened scrutiny of UNRWA's alleged collusion with Hamas, with Israel accusing 12 UNRWA staff members of involvement in a massacre orchestrated by Hamas-led terrorists. The accusations have prompted several top donor countries to announce funding freezes, raising concerns about the agency's ability to continue its operations in Gaza and the broader Middle East, as reported by The Times of Israel.

The IDF's findings shed light on the intricate nature of the Hamas data centre, concealed beneath UNRWA's Gaza headquarters in the upscale Rimal neighbourhood. The initial ground offensive in Gaza City did not unveil the data centre, but new intelligence, including information obtained from Shin Bet interrogations of captured terrorists, guided the IDF to the precise location.

Col Benny Aharon, commander of the 401st Armored Brigade, emphasized the importance of intelligence gathered from previous operations: "We had a basis of information, but not enough to be able to dig down 20 meters and find it; we needed a bit more. There's information we get from prisoners we capture, from computers we find, from documents, maps."The IDF's recent return to the northern Gaza Strip for smaller operations, post the destruction of Hamas's fighting capabilities, underscores their commitment to dismantling strategic Hamas assets. Col Nissim Hazan, a senior officer in the 401st Brigade, explained that these operations require meticulous research, time, and patience.

Despite the success of the mission, it came at a cost, with two soldiers losing their lives during the operation to reach the Hamas data center. The risks associated with such raids remain, even as the IDF continues its efforts to neutralize strategic Hamas tunnels.

Journalists were given a firsthand look at the 700-meter-long tunnel leading to the data center, guided by troops from the elite Yahalom combat engineering unit and the Shaldag unit. The tunnel, with its branching paths, was equipped with neon glowsticks to ensure the group stayed on course. The journey included a section with Hamas's concrete arches, leading to a large hallway featuring living quarters, a kitchenette, and meeting rooms adorned with posters bearing the logo of Hamas's military wing.

Hazan detailed the challenging conditions inside the tunnel: "Keep your head down and don't touch the ceiling," he cautioned, as the group navigated through flooded sections and slippery inclines to reach the heart of the facility. The electrical room, housing power inverters and industrial batteries, was covered in mud, a testament to the arduous journey undertaken by the combat engineers.

The heart of the facility revealed rows of server cabinets comprising Hamas's data center. Hazan explained that the server farm was likely used for intelligence gathering, data processing, and communications. The IDF seized hard drives and computers for investigation before demolishing the tunnel system in a controlled explosion.

Hazan expressed confidence in the IDF's ability to locate and dismantle additional "strategic" Hamas tunnels in Gaza in the coming months. He noted, "We have time, months ahead of us in the war, and one by one we will dismantle them and take away what the enemy is trying to hide, and it hides it in a very sophisticated and cynical way."UNRWA's Gaza headquarters, situated directly above the hidden Hamas data center, became a focal point of scrutiny. Aharon revealed that weapons caches belonging to Hamas were discovered when IDF forces raided and battled Hamas gunmen for the complex, although after UN staff had evacuated. The caches included grenades, rockets, launchers, explosives, and a substantial amount of weaponry, according to The Times of Israel.

Furthermore, allegations of UNRWA's collusion with Hamas surfaced, with claims that some offices within the UNRWA complex were used by Hamas terrorists. Aharon accused UNRWA of providing cover for Hamas and asserted, "UNRWA knows exactly what is happening underground, and UNRWA uses its budget to fund some of Hamas's military capabilities, this is for certain."The IDF emphasized that the electrical cables leading from the UN building to the tunnel were providing power to the Hamas infrastructure below ground. Despite the proximity, UNRWA's server room appeared mostly empty, with cables disconnected and computers removed.

In response to the allegations, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, denied any knowledge of the Hamas data centre in a tweet following the publication. The IDF's revelations have intensified concerns about UNRWA's role and the potential misuse of its facilities.

As Israel grapples with the aftermath of this discovery, questions surrounding UNRWA's collaboration with Hamas and the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist. The intricate web of tunnels, data centres, and alleged collusion has added another layer of complexity to the already contentious situation in the region, The Times of Israel reported. (ANI)

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