newsIsrael at War

An inside look at Hamas’s servers under UNRWA Gaza HQ

What our forces discovered in Gaza leaves no room for doubt. The connection between UNRWA and Hamas is literal, not metaphorical.

Israel Hayom reporter Ariel Kahana next to the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. Photo by Ariel Kahana.
Israel Hayom reporter Ariel Kahana next to the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. Photo by Ariel Kahana.

You have to hand it to Hamas—if this were a tourist attraction, one couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable experience. A wild jeep ride to Gaza’s beautiful seaside. A meeting with our heroic soldiers, who have been destroying the enemy for 120 days already. Then a descent 20 meters underground, to find a buried treasure.

The prize: An unambiguous, indisputable connection between the murderous organization and the infamous “aid agency” UNRWA.

It took me only two minutes touring UNRWA’s headquarters in the heart of Gaza’s upscale Rimal neighborhood to understand that they knew everything. Just as it was impossible for Tel Avivians not to know about the city’s light rail construction, just like all Jerusalemites heard about the “secret tunnel” in the capital, it’s impossible that Gazans, and UNRWA heads in particular, didn’t know about the tunnel and server farm that was set up right under their noses. Not near, not close by, but literally right beneath them.

IDF Col. Nissim Hazan shows journalists a map of the area. Photo: Ariel Kahana.

I saw with my own eyes the cables connecting UNRWA’s communication room on the first floor of the building to Hamas’s server room directly underneath it.

Did Thomas White, UNRWA Gaza director since the summer of 2021, not notice the trucks removing soil for years from the compound he managed? Did he not wonder who the people walking around his headquarters were? Was he not puzzled by the computers, air conditioners, servers, batteries, cement mixers, cables, tiles, steel doors and even the motorcycles that arrived in his backyard? Did he not notice the cables that very strangely ran from his communications room to some unknown destination underground? Did he never once have a doubt that made him think to report to his superiors at the United Nations?

You have to be very naive, or more likely dishonest, to answer “no” to these questions. What our forces discovered in Gaza leaves no room for doubt. The connection between UNRWA and Hamas is literal, not metaphorical.

In this case, after the Israel Defense Forces cleared the Rimal neighborhood two months ago, intelligence indicated that there was more going on here.

The tunnel was located, and careful clearing began. For several days our forces advanced meter by meter. They discovered a maze whose deciphering required great ingenuity. They also discovered the luxury conditions that the terrorists had prepared for themselves underground—from a first aid kit for emergencies to motorized scooters that would save them from having to walk bent over for 300 meters there and back, to state-of-the-art Electra air conditioners.

The air conditioning was intended not only for the people—even in winter it’s hot underground—but mainly for Hamas’s server room, located, as mentioned, beneath UNRWA’s main compound in Gaza.

We were not allowed to view the full room, but even from the little we did see, it’s clear this system would not have embarrassed a high-tech company. Columns and columns of servers, cooled by new white air conditioners. Next to it is a power facility, connected above ground.

Servers found in the Hamas tunnel. Photo: Ariel Kahana.

“We are at the heart of the secret, in the server farm,” said Col. Nissim Hazan, who was brought in to command the operation to expose the tunnel. “This is the farm from which Hamas created its intelligence superiority. There are 10 server cabinets here, full of valuable information. You could only get to this place with soldiers. You can’t do this by remote control or with an aerial bomb. Above us is UNRWA’s huge building; Hamas intentionally located [the site] here so we couldn’t strike it.”

While we don’t yet know what information was on the servers, the connection to UNRWA is clear as day. 

After we again sank into the mud, crawled through the tunnel, walked hunched over for hundreds of meters and emerged into daylight, the IDF APCs brought us to UNRWA’s headquarters. There, among offices, schools, kindergartens and SpongeBob Squarepants drawings, the commander of the IDF’s 401st Brigade, Col. Benny Aharon, showed us the agency’s own server room.

“We’re in UNRWA’s server room. Coincidentally—I say this cynically—it’s located right above the server room you saw underground,” he said. “Notice that all the cables are ripped and disconnected; they left almost nothing, only what they managed to cut off. We’re lucky a few cables remained that they didn’t manage to cut…They took out all the DVRs and computers. Only someone who has something to hide does something like this. What kind of international humanitarian organization that only has good intentions behaves this way?”

Evening is falling and a cool breeze comes off the sea. The APCs head back to the beachfront handoff point. The brand new Netz unit—black coffee is their speciality—takes us out, toward Kibbutz Be’eri, again in armored vehicles. We speedily traverse the same route the Hamas killers raced toward our communities on that fateful October morning.

The whole way, I couldn’t stop thinking: Why did they do this? Hamas knew that one day the IDF would arrive. Hence the tangled tunnels, hence the fortified steel doors, hence a whole array of obstacles meant to delay the inevitable invasion. But if so, if you knew that in the end, Israel would defeat you anyway, why do this? What’s the logic and benefit of committing crimes against humanity that end in your own destruction?

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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