Belgium calls for independent investigation into tunnels under UNRWA headquarters

Belgian Development Cooperation minister Caroline Gennez has called for an independent investigation into the tunnels that Israel says it has discovered under the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza. "These are serious allegations, but we don't have any concrete evidence," she said.

"We are asking for clarification from Israel about the destruction of the building that housed our Belgian development agency, but also from UNRWA about the involvement of employees and the tunnels," Gennez said in an interview with VRT NWS on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Israeli army and the Shin Bet internal security service said they had discovered a network of hundreds of metres of tunnels running under the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

Propaganda war

"Transparency is needed," Gennez said. "In this propaganda war, the truth has been the first casualty. But what we really need to work on is the future of all the innocent victims. The violence must stop. Information and transparent investigations must reach the international community."

Earlier, Israel accused 12 UNRWA employees of being involved in the Hamas terror attack on 7 October. Several countries have since suspended aid to the agency, but Belgium announced it would continue to support UNRWA.

In a post on X on Sunday, Gennez reiterated that Israel's allegations of tunnels under UNRWA headquarters "require independent investigation".

Vocal critic of Israeli violence

Belgium has been one of the most vocal critics of Israeli violence in Gaza, although the country's ministers have not always seen eye to eye on the issue. In mid-January, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo distanced himself from Gennez's comments on Germany's position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On the question of continued support for UNRWA, however, Belgium has so far remained united. On Monday, De Croo said that Belgium "certainly does not want to take away much-needed support from people without roofs over their heads, children without educational opportunities and families in famine".

Israeli Foreign minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday called for the resignation of UNRWA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini. Lazzarini is due to meet EU development ministers in Brussels on Monday to ask for funding to continue operations.



An Israeli soldier inside what the Israeli army claims is a "Hamas command tunnel" under a UNRWA compound in Gaza City. The picture was taken during a controlled media tour organised by the Israeli military on 8 February and edited under the supervision of the army © PHOTO JACK GUEZ / AFP

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