(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees denied Monday that it had given 20 rockets found in one of its empty schools to Hamas.
Rumors that it had done so circulated in the Israeli media and on twitter on Sunday.
“UNRWA did not give the rockets to Hamas,” spokesman Chris Gunness said.
The rockets were taken away by bomb disposal experts who are answerable to the national unity government, which Hamas has left, Gunness said.
He did not specify, however, what happened to the rockets, which the agency found last week during an inspection, once they were taken out of the UNRWA school.
The UN agency runs more than 200 schools in the Gaza Strip, which service more than 230,000 students.
Israel has in the past charged that terrorists hide weapons in UNRWA facilities in Gaza. UNRWA has consistently denied these claims.
Gunness said that this was the first time UNRWA found a weapons cache in one of its facilities.
The organization convened a Board of Inquiry to investigate the matter.
“All existing evidence will be handed over by UNRWA to the investigation, which can commence as soon as hostilities in Gaza are over.
Any photographic material is part of the BoI evidence and is not subject to disclosure.
We will keep relevant players informed about the investigation,” he said.
Placing rockets in one of its schools, Gunness said, “is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of UNRWA premises under international law.”
He added that doing so endangered the civilians and staff and undermined the organization’s mission to help and protect Palestinian refugees in the Strip.
“UNRWA has strong, established procedures to maintain the neutrality of all its premises, including a strict no-weapons policy and routine inspections of its installations, to ensure they are only used for humanitarian purposes. UNRWA will uphold and further reinforce its procedures,” Gunness said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the “only authority in Gaza is unfortunately Hamas.”