Exclusive: 'No' to UNRWA school ‘near Hamas base'

Defense sources say Israel committed to UNRWA education system, will not allow Hamas to use schools, children in terror war against Israel.

The Defense Ministry has rejected a UN request to establish a number of new schools in the Gaza Strip, because, it says, they were supposed to be built on land provided by Hamas and next to a Hamas military installation.
The United Nations Relief and Work Agency asked for permission to build several schools in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in southern Gaza City, according to details obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
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The request was submitted to the Defense Ministry in line with current Israeli policy to approve international projects in Gaza after they have received the approval of donor nations and the Palestinian Authority.
Since Israel eased the blockade on the Gaza Strip in July, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has approved 70 international projects – including the renovation of a sewage treatment plant, the construction of 151 housing units and eight new schools.
But when the Defense Ministry received the UNRWA request for the new schools and checked their planned location, defense officials said they were alarmed to discover that the UN had planned to build the schools adjacent to a Hamas military installation.
“We were shocked to see that some of the schools sent for approval were right next to Hamas,” one official told the Post on Thursday.
The Defense Ministry contacted UNRWA and asked if it was aware that Hamas maintained a military installation nearby. The answer the Defense Ministry received was “yes,” according to Israeli officials, with UNRWA acknowledging that Hamas had allocated the land for the schools.
Chris Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, confirmed the details of the report but claimed that the Hamas installation in question was severely damaged by Israel during Operation Cast Lead and questioned whether it still served as a military facility.
IDF sources said that the building functioned as a Hamas base during Operation Cast Lead and continued to serve as a base today.
Gunness said that due to the Defense Ministry’s decision, UNRWA would not be able to build the schools, and therefore thousands of Palestinian children will be educated by Hamas instead of the UN.
“There is an acute shortage of UNRWA schools in that area, and as a result of the shortage more children beyond the 39,000 who are already not receiving a UN education will continue to receive local education instead,” Gunness said. “It is a great pity that we can’t have children in Gaza receive a UN education based on universal values.”
Defense sources said that Israel was committed to the UNRWA education system but that Israel would not allow Hamas to cynically use schools and children in its terrorist war against Israel.
“Israel attaches a lot of importance to the UNRWA education system in Gaza and will continue to cooperate and assist as much as possible in helping UNRWA,” one senior official said. “But we will not help Hamas use schools and turn the people of Gaza into human shields.”
The defense source referred to an explosion on Wednesday in the southern Gaza town of Rafah that injured five children and two women. The explosion went off inside a home where a Hamas laboratory manufactures weaponry, located adjacent to a school.