Hugh Fitzgerald, What the terrorists are hiding.
In order to ensure the safety of Palestinian Arab schoolchildren, UN inspectors were asked by UNRWA to examine a tunnel, part of the vast network of terror tunnels that Hamas has built in Gaza, for unexploded ordnance. As soon as the UN’s bomb disposal team arrived, Hamas operatives appeared and ordered them to leave before they could conduct their investigation. Intimidated by Hamas, the inspectors immediately left. The report on this attempt by Hamas to hide its egregious endangerment of civilians – in this case, schoolchildren – is here: “Hamas Bars UN Inspectors From Examining Tunnel Under UNRWA School in Gaza,” JNS, August 11, 2021:
Hamas prevented a team of United Nations inspectors from examining a tunnel discovered in June under a school in Gaza city’s Zaitoun neighborhood, Israel’s Kan news reported on Tuesday.
Citing Palestinian sources, the report stated that a UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) bomb-disposal unit had arrived at the site a few days ago at the request of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which runs the school.
Upon learning of the presence of UNMAS inspectors, Hamas police arrived on the scene and forced them to leave.
As a result, the UNMAS team canceled plans to inspect another UNRWA-run school, this one in Rafah, under which there is reportedly also a Hamas tunnel, according to the report.
In the absence of safety inspections, the schools will not be able to open next week as scheduled.
What was Hamas so determined to hide? The full extent of its war crime in routinely hiding its weapons inside or near, civilian structures, such as schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, or under them, too, in the vast network of tunnels it has built in Gaza – a deliberate attempt to use civilians as human shields against Israeli attacks. But unless UNRWA can have UN mine inspectors examine both its schools, and the tunnels that Hamas has built under them, the Agency has no way of knowing which schools remain a danger to its pupils.
Ambassador to the UN (and outgoing ambassador to the United States) Gilad Erdan tweeted: “I’ve demanded that the UN Secretary-General & Director General of @UNRWA investigate this incident & all UNRWA facilities in Gaza to ensure that they are not being used by Hamas for terror. 4,000 Palestinian kids can’t go to school because of Hamas! The international community cannot ignore Hamas’s heinous human rights violations & the state of terror it inflicts on Gazans. Hamas is a terror organization that uses innocents & children as hostages & human shields.”
Hamas was about to be exposed by the UN mine inspectors for its “war crimes” against its own people. First, for having dug a terror tunnel directly under a school, thereby endangering children and staff should the tunnel be hit by Israel and, collapsing In upon itself would also cause the school to crumble into the cavity left by the destroyed tunnel underneath. Second, for having hidden weapons, including rockets, as well as launching pads, inside or beside those schools. Third, for storing weapons as well in those tunnels built directly under schools and hospitals. Fourth, for having been so determined to hide the evidence of its crime by chasing the UN inspectors offsite, despite the awful optics of such behavior. The result is that without an inspection by the UN Mine Inspectors, and a report from them giving the school a clean bill of health, the UNRWA school will not open. Apparently thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren will be affected. What does Hamas care, as long as it has prevented the evidence of its endangering those pupils from being made known to the world?
Israel has long insisted that Hamas deliberately hides its weapons, and launches rocket attacks from inside or near civilian structures – especially schools and hospitals – to create human shields. And to the list of those structures must now be added the more than 200 miles of tunnels Hamas has dug deep under civilian buildings in Gaza, where weapons and warriors are hidden and moved about, and which endanger those Palestinians who study or work or live or are medically treated in the buildings that lie just above those tunnels.
Now there is a tug of wills, out in the open, between Hamas and UNRWA. Hamas will not let the UNMAS inspectors inspect its tunnels, and UNRWA will not open any schools that have not been inspected by UNMAS, together with the tunnels under them, and declared safe for the pupils and staff. A most unusual standoff. How will the Palestinian parents in Gaza react, when they are confronted with the distinct possibility that their children‘s schools will not open, because Hamas insists on preventing safety inspections by UNMAS that will unmask its use of schools as storehouses of weapons, and as the sites of rocket launching pads, and above all, will provide the UNMAS inspectors, and the world, a good look at the terror tunnels, and where Hamas deliberately chose to dig them, right under schools?
I’m betting that the parents In Gaza will hold demonstrations, and demand that Hamas relent, and allow the UNMAS inspectors to do their job, so that the schools may reopen, and in this case the groundswell of anger will be so widespread that Hamas, in the end, will find itself forced to yield to the enraged parents.