PM Netanyahu accuses Hamas of committing double war crimes, nothing that “UNRWA, by its very existence …perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than resolving it. That is why the time has come to dissolve UNRWA and incorporate parts of it into the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.”
• Hamas denies claims terror-tunnels are theirs; “baseless accusations.”
By The Associated Press and Daniel Siryoti
“In recent days, a Hamas tunnel was discovered under two schools in Gaza,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Hamas is using schoolchildren as human shields, and this is the enemy that we have been fighting for many years — an enemy committing a double war crime.”
“Hamas is intentionally attacking innocent civilians while simultaneously hiding behind children,” Netanyahu explained. “On Friday, I instructed the director of the Foreign Ministry to file an official complaint against Hamas with the U.N. Security Council.”
“Last week, I met with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley,” the prime minister told his cabinet ministers. “I thanked her, on your behalf, too, for her forceful remarks in support of Israel and against the anti-Israel obsession in the U.N.”
Referring to the fact that the Hamas terror tunnel was discovered earlier this month under two United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools in Gaza, Netanyahu went on to say that in his meeting with Haley, “I told her it was time to reexamine the continued existence of UNRWA.”
He went on to note that “UNRWA, by its very existence, and by its actions from time to time unfortunately, perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than resolving it. That is why the time has come to dissolve UNRWA and incorporate parts of it into the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.”
On Friday, meanwhile, UNRWA issued a statement revealing that its employees had discovered the Hamas terror tunnel under an elementary school in the Gaza Strip
Israel has warned for years that Hamas was using kindergartens and schools as a cover for terrorist activity, which includes terror tunnels and rocket stockpiles.
According to the agency, the tunnel was discovered by UNRWA employees on June 1 under the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School during construction work.
“The discovery was made during the summer vacation, at a time when the schools are empty, and in the course of work related to the construction of an extension of one of the buildings.” UNRWA said in a statement.
“The tunnel has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way,” it further said.
UNRWA condemned “the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms.”
“It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way. The construction and presence of tunnels under U.N. premises are incompatible with the respect of privileges and immunities owed to the United Nations under applicable international law, which provides that U.N. premises shall be inviolable. The sanctity and neutrality of U.N. premises must be preserved at all times,” the statement read.
”UNRWA has robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza. It has also informed them that the Agency intends to seal the tunnel under its premises, as an immediate priority. We will not allow any students or staff into the building until the issue is resolved,” the agency said.
UNRWA reiterated its demand that “all parties respect the neutrality and inviolability of United Nations premises at all times. Furthermore we demand they desist from any activities or conduct that put beneficiaries and staff at risk and undermine the ability of U.N. staff to provide assistance to Palestine refugees in safety and security.”
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai posted on his office’s Arabic language Facebook page that “we were thinking about how to respond to this despicable disregard for children’s lives, but we ultimately decided to leave it to Saudi newspaper Okaz, which ran the following lines: ‘Hamas is leading Gaza toward a humanitarian disaster by usurping and confiscating humanitarian aid and jeopardizing residents’ lives by digging tunnels under schools and hospitals in an effort to use the population as a human shield.'”
“It is clear as day that the Arab world in its entirety now understands that the terrorist organization Hamas is destroying the Gaza Strip and eliminating any prospects of a better future for Gazans. Perhaps it is time for the residents of Gaza to understand it themselves,” Mordechai added.
Hamas denied UNRWA’s allegations. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that “these are baseless accusations — the Hamas movement has nothing to do with the tunnel that was discovered.”
Barhoum further said that the group “strongly condemns UNRWA’s allegations” and warned that the U.N. agency’s condemnation of Hamas could undermine its status in the Gaza Strip.
“We call upon UNRWA to withdraw its accusations against Hamas,” he said.
During the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, Hamas gunmen on several occasions made their way into Israel through tunnels, though they did not manage to reach civilian areas. Israel destroyed 32 tunnels during the operation, and has since made neutralizing the tunnel threat a top priority.
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