UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe LazzariniREUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini on Saturday night responded to the revelation of the terror tunnels under UNRWA's main headquarters in Gaza.

In a series of bullet points posted on X, formerly Twitter, Lazzarini claimed, "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 bombardment intensified in the area. We have not used that compound since we left it nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there.

"We understand, through media reporting, that the Israeli Army has deployed troops within the UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza City. We are therefore unable to confirm or otherwise comment on these reports.

"In times of 'no active conflict' UNRWA inspects inside its premises every quarter, the last inspection for the UNRWA Gaza premises was completed in September 2023."

He also claimed that, "UNRWA 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."

"In the past, whenever suspicious cavity was found close to or under UNRWA premises, protest letters were promptly filed to parties to the conflict, including both the de facto authorities in Gaza (Hamas) and the Israeli authorities. The matter was consistently reported in annual reports presented to the General Assembly and made public.

"These recent media reports merit an independent inquiry that is currently not possible to undertake given Gaza is an active war zone.

"The Israeli Authorities have not informed UNRWA officially about the alleged tunnel," he added.

MAJ Nir Dinar, IDF spokesman to the international press, responded, "A lesson in responsibility taking from Lazzarini."

"As Ronen Bergman quoted me saying in his NY Times story: 'You have to be very naive to think that the UNRWA personnel did not know what was happening under their feet.'"

Lt. Col. (R) Peter Lerner, who was recruited back into service of the IDF spokesman following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, responded to Lazzarini's post, writing, "All UNRWA, Lazzarini, Tom White Gaza needed to do was check the power and water bills."

"Here’s a free media lesson: You should have started this tweet like this: 'I am extremely concerned / alarmed with the reports being made public about the alleged abuse of the sanctity of UN premises by the Hamas authorities in Gaza.'"

"I wonder if you’re now going to condemn Hamas for putting your operations and the people you are supposed to serve at risk? Or are you going to continue to blame Israel for your utter failure?

"I worked as a humanitarian officer for years with UNRWA I had much respect for your mission and your commitment and many friends among your staff. Today I feel duped like many of the governments that have frozen your funds that you at minimum turned a blind eye to the truth."

COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) quoted Lazzarini's post and responded, "Oh, you knew."

"Digging a tunnel takes longer than 4 months. We invited senior UN officials to see, and during past meetings with you and other UN officials, we stated Hamas’s use of UNRWA's headquarters.

"You chose to ignore the facts so you can later try and deny them."