Latest Developments

Israeli planes on May 5 destroyed a Hamas command center located in a complex run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in central Gaza. According to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet, Hamas used the center to stage multiple attacks against Israeli troops in Gaza’s central corridor. “Hamas intentionally positioned the command-and-control position within the vicinity of an active UNRWA location, jeopardizing the Gazan civilians taking refuge there,” the statement said.

Israel has accused the UN agency — which is charged with maintaining the welfare of Palestinians UNRWA classifies as refugees — of collaborating with Hamas. The agency employs active Hamas members and ignores Hamas’s use of its facilities. UNRWA does not recognize U.S.-designated terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as terrorist entities. UNRWA said on May 6 that it would not heed Israel’s call for civilians to evacuate parts of the southern city of Rafah, where the agency has thousands of employees.

Expert Analysis

“What a day for UNRWA: Yet another compound in central Gaza is revealed to be a Hamas operational headquarters while the agency pledges to act as a human shield for Hamas in Rafah. The time has come for all countries to turn the page from UNRWA and proceed with readily available turn-key alternatives.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Since its inception, UNRWA has been a humanitarian aid organization with an agenda. Part of the reason Hamas was able to dedicate all of its resources and manpower to turning Gaza into a military fortress is because UNRWA functions as the quasi-government providing education, healthcare, and other basic needs to the people of Gaza. Hamas could not have become what it is in Gaza today without UNRWA’s buy-in and support. They both have to go.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

IDF Previously Discovered Hamas-UNRWA Facilities

In February, IDF troops operating in Gaza City uncovered a Hamas data center underneath UNRWA headquarters. The center included a large room with computer servers and industrial batteries used to support Hamas’s infrastructure for intelligence gathering, data processing, and communications. The electricity for Hamas’s data center was connected to the UNRWA headquarters, and Hamas had run communications cables through the headquarters’ floor.

While UNRWA head Phillippe Lazzarini saidclass=”beyondwords-highlight bwp id-1c0505f2-5c44-4bd4-b340-82fdf139a845″> the organization was not aware of the data center, IDF Col. Benny Aharon said, “There is no doubt that UNRWA staff knew that [Hamas] was digging a massive tunnel beneath them. There’s a perimeter wall, a gate, cameras, at the gate they log who comes in and out. Whoever worked at UNRWA knew very well who was coming in, and who they were covering for.” In March, an Israeli strike on an UNRWA aid distribution center in Rafah killed Hamas commander Muhammad Abu Hasna.