During Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations to dismantle the world body’s Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, after a tunnel was discovered running under two of the organization’s schools in the Gaza Strip.
A Hamas tunnel has recently been discovered under two schools in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is using schoolchildren as human shields and this is the enemy that we have been fighting against for many years. An enemy that is committing a twofold war crime On the one hand, it first attacks innocent civilians and then hides behind children.”
The Israeli leader further noted that he spoke about the issue to the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, during their meeting in Jerusalem last week. Netanyahu said it was time to reconsider the continued existence of UNRWA, an organization the Prime Minister accuses of prolonging rather than solving the Palestinian refugee problem, as well as considering the fact that ‘all other refugee related issues are operated under one agency of the United Nations’.
“On Friday I instructed the Foreign Ministry Director General to file an official protest against Hamas at the UN Security Council Last week I met with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley I thanked her, on your behalf as well, for her sharp words in favor of the State of Israel and against the anti-Israel obsession at the UN. I told her that the time has come for the UN to reconsider the continued existence on UNRWA. Since World War Two, there have been – and continue to be today – millions of refugees. And these millions have the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) while most of the Palestinian refugees are settled and have a separate commission, which is called UNRWA; it has its own institutions and considerable incitement against Israel. I regret that UNRWA, to a large degree, by its very existence, prolongs rather than solves the Palestinian refugee problem. Therefore, the time has come to disband UNRWA and integrate it into the UNHCR.”
In response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call, a Gaza-based spokesman for UNRWA pointed to the fact that only the UN General Assembly, by a majority vote, could change the agency’s mandate. “UNRWA was established upon a decision of the U.N. General Assembly and any change to the mandated role must be decided at the U.N. General Assembly with a big majority vote,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, Gaza-based UNRWA Spokesman.
The Islamist Hamas organization, which controls the Gaza Strip, rejected UNRWA’s allegation regarding the finding of a tunnel under one of its schools in the center of Gaza. A spokesman of the Islamist organization stressed that after an investigation of the matter, all of Hamas’s military branches vowed to adhere to the organization’s policy: ‘to avoid operating near public facilities.’
“We strongly deny the claim made by UNRWA about founding a tunnel under one of its schools in the center of Gaza. These claims put the lives of the Palestinian people at risk because these claims can be used by the Israeli enemy to kill civilians and target these schools.” / “Hamas checked with all the resistance groups in Gaza who made it clear they are not practicing any resistant action near (UNRWA) sites and assured their clear policy to keep UNRWA organizations and other public facilities out of their resistance actions,” said Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman.
Even though Israel complains to the international community, on a regular basis, of Hamas’ reoccurring use of UN facilities in the Gaza Strip, allegations the Palestinian group vehemently denied; the international community continues to finance UNRWA – including the United States, which under the Obama Administration was the biggest donor of the organization last year, pledging it some 368 million dollars.