That UNRWA is prepared to do this is most telling. It strongly suggests that UNRWA does not function as an autonomous humanitarian organization, but rather at the behest of Hamas.
In the handful of times that Hamas was mentioned by UNRWA representatives, it was almost always to indicate that Hamas was not involved in one matter or another.
Not once, but three times in the course of days, rockets were discovered hidden in UNRWA schools. The first time was on July 16, when UNRWA announced that 20 rockets had been found. The placement of rockets in the school was soundly “condemned” as “a flagrant violation of …international law.” But once again, no group was identified as responsible.
UNRWA itself was then roundly criticized by international commentators for saying it had “informed the relevant authorities” in order to have the rockets taken away. This meant handing the rockets back to Hamas instead of having them dismantled.
Not so, UNRWA replied:
“…those authorities we contacted are under the authority of the national unity government in Ramallah now that Hamas has effectively left the government.”
This rationale was not well accepted, as in point of fact there is no authority in Gaza except Hamas.
But perhaps the single most disingenuous statement in the press release cited above is this:
“This incident [i.e., rockets placed in an UNRWA school], which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians.”
One blogger commented, tongue-in-cheek, that yes, this is the first time this number of rockets was found in this particular UNRWA school.
He was not far from the truth: Only in the very narrowest sense would this be the “first time,” as a link between UNRWA schools and Hamas has been well documented for many years.
A special report from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, released in December 2002, indicated that a number of wanted terrorists were found hiding inside schools run by UNRWA.
A Shin Bet (Israeli secret service) report drawn up after Operation Defensive Shield identified the UNRWA schools that had been used for storing ammunition.
In the 2003 elections for representatives of the UNRWA union in the Gaza strip, Hamas-affiliated candidates — formally identified with the Islamic Bloc — gained 11 out of 11 seats in the teachers’ sector. The Islamic Bloc has been charged by Hamas with furthering the goal of Hamas within the schools. With regard to the first cache of rockets found in July, UNRWA refused Israel’s request for pictures of those weapons, arguing that “any photographic material” is evidence needed for its investigation of the matter. The fact of such an investigation by UNRWA – which is not likely to result in an announcement of “findings,” in any event – would in no way have precluded sharing of photos. However, such pictures might possibly have allowed identification of the rockets as the type utilized by Hamas.
When the second cache of rockets was found, UNRWA announced that staff had been withdrawn from the premises, “and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets.”
There was no explanation as to how it had been possible to confirm the 20 rockets in the first instance.
By July 29, a third cache of rockets had been found in an UNRWA school; there was very little press about this. One blogger cited information he had acquired that the rockets were discovered when the IDF learned of them from a member of Hamas they had captured.
But storage of rockets in an UNRWA facility was hardly the worst of what was encountered in the course of the war: