INTERNATIONAL

Israel uncovers Hamas data centre under UN agency HQ in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have uncovered a clandestine subterranean data centre belonging to Hamas, nestled beneath the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the war-torn Gaza Strip. The sophisticated server farm, equipped with an electrical room and accommodations for Hamas IT personnel, was strategically positioned directly beneath the UN agency’s complex in Gaza City’s Rimal neighbourhood, reported Times of Israel.

This picture shows Israeli soldiers inside a tunnel that the army claimed is a “Hamas command tunnel” under a compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City.(AFP)

The military claimed the room served as a hub powering tunnel infrastructure in the area. This covert setup was allegedly intended to shield the facility from Israeli airstrikes and ensure its secrecy.

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“Twenty metres above us is the UNRWA headquarters,” said Lt Col Ido, whose last name was redacted by the military. “This is the electricity room, you can see all around here. The batteries, the electricity on walls, everything is conducted from here, all the energy for the tunnels which you walked though them are powered from here.”

It did not prove definitively that Hamas militants operated in the tunnels underneath the UNWRA facility, but it did show that at least a portion of the tunnel ran underneath the facility’s courtyard, according to the Associated Press. The military claimed that the headquarters supplied the tunnels with electricity, reported AP.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees denied any knowledge of a Hamas data centre beneath its Gaza headquarters.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that the agency was not aware of the activity transpiring beneath its premises, asserting that the agency’s staff vacated the Gaza City headquarters in October following Israeli evacuation orders amid escalating hostilities.

Lazzarini said that UNRWA conducts regular inspections of its premises in times of “no active conflict”, the most recent being in September 2023.

“We have not used that compound since we left it nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there,” the UN official said in a post on X.

“UNRWA is a Human development and humanitarian organisation 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,” he added.

Lazzarini stressed the need for an independent inquiry into the matter, citing a lack of expertise and capacity on the part of UNRWA to conduct military inspections.

The official further stated that the Israeli authorities have not officially informed UNRWA about the alleged tunnel.

The allegation that Hamas was running a data centre under UNRWA’s nose has added to growing concerns over the level of Hamas infiltration in the agency, according to Times of Israel.

“Oh, you knew, ” Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, said in a post shortly after Lazzarini pleaded ignorance.

“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.”

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