UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini denies any knowledge of the Hamas data center found by Israeli troops underneath the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.
In a tweet shortly after tonight’s publication of the findings, Lazzarini says UNRWA “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza” and that the reports “merit an independent inquiry that is currently not possible to undertake given Gaza is an active war zone.”
He says Israel has “not informed UNRWA officially about the alleged tunnel.”
The subterranean data center, seen by The Times of Israel’s military correspondent on Thursday, included an electricity room, industrial battery power banks, and living quarters for Hamas terrorists operating the computer servers.
Lazzarini says UN staff left the Gaza headquarters on October 12, five days after Hamas launched its October 7 killing spree across southern Israel, as the Israeli military campaign in Gaza began ramping up.
“We have not used that compound since we left it nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there,” he claims.
UNRWA, he says, “is a human development and humanitarian organization that does not have the military and security expertise nor the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises.”
– UNRWA did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.
– UNRWA is made aware of reports through the media regarding a tunnel under the UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza.
– UNRWA staff left its headquarters in Gaza City on 12 October following the Israeli evacuation orders and as…
— Philippe Lazzarini (@UNLazzarini) February 10, 2024
He says any previous “suspicious” activity was promptly dealt with and “consistently reported in annual reports presented to the General Assembly and made public.”
UNWRA has come under increased scrutiny and calls for its disbanding have grown following findings by Israel last month that accused 12 staff members of taking part in the October 7 massacre by Hamas-led terrorists, who killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.
Since the allegations became public, UNRWA has seen many of its top donor countries announce funding freezes, leading to concerns that the agency could stop operating in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East within weeks.