“The digging was not secretive,” the Israeli U.N. ambassador said, adding that the United Nations “became an accomplice to Hamas’s crimes.”
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations is crying foul over a claim from a spokesman for the U.N. chief that the global body didn’t know about Hamas’s web of terror tunnels beneath Gaza.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, was asked on Wednesday whether, given the sizable U.N. presence amid a multitude of Gazan agencies, the organization had any indication tunnels were being constructed
“No is clearly the answer for that,” Dujarric said. “It seems to me that all this infrastructure was built in a highly secretive way.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, rejected those claims in a post late on Thursday on social media.
“Watch the U.N. secretary-general’s spokesperson say the U.N. didn’t know about Hamas terror tunnels in Gaza! Nothing can be further from the truth,” Erdan posted. “The secretary-general himself received four detailed letters from me in the past two years reporting on Hamas tunnels built under Gaza’s civilian infrastructure including under U.N. facilities.”
Erdan attached screen captures of two of those letters—one dated Aug. 11, 2021 and the other July 29, 2022—to his post. The former informed Guterres that Hamas was denying a U.N. agency an opportunity to inspect a pair of Gazan schools run by the international body, underneath both of which the Israel Defense Forces had discovered tunnels.
The following year, Erdan wrote to Guterres and enclosed detailed proof of the “deliberately close proximity” that Hamas digs terror tunnels to schools, mosques and weapons storehouses.
“But wait: there’s more!” Erdan added in his post.
The Israeli envoy cited a 2022 statement by UNRWA, the Palestinian-only, perpetual U.N. agency for refugees and their descendants, condemning the presence of a “man-made cavity” beneath one of its Gazan schools as a breach of neutrality and international law.
Erdan claimed he briefed UNRWA Commissioner-General Phillipe Lazzarini on the tunnels in 2021.
“The digging was not secretive. The U.N. knew about it for years but because of its bias, refused to report on it and became an accomplice to Hamas’s crimes,” he wrote. “Beyond Shameful!”
Still, Dujarric insisted on Wednesday that the United Nations was unaware of the sophisticated labyrinth of tunnels being dug and fortified throughout Gaza.
“I mean, just to see it as an observer, to think that the U.N. had any understanding of what was,” he said, “any information about those operations, I think, is: No is clearly the answer for that.”