Hamas has appropriated seven tons of weaponry and ammunition stored in UN warehouses in Gaza and intended to be destroyed by sappers, Israeli officials said Tuesday. Senior UN officials demanded the ordnance stockpile be returned immediately.
With the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and UN personnel amassed weapons and explosives – mainly unexploded tank shells – and moved them to a special warehouse guarded by Hamas security troops.
Unexploded shells in Gaza (Photo: Gettyimages Imagebank)
UN representatives examined the weaponry, and a delegation of UN-employed experts was due to arrive in Gaza in order to carry out a controlled detonation of the explosives. Over the course of the past two days, however, it was discovered that the weaponry had gone missing. The Hamas security officials charged with guarding the storage facility had also vanished.
Hamas' motive to appropriate the ordnance is unclear, although most estimate that the group believes the unexploded shells can be reused. Hamas has yet to officially comment on the allegations, though
sources within the organization said it was highly likely that members of the military wing sought to reuse the weaponry.
Top UN spokesman in Jerusalem, Richard Miron, told the BBC the UN is "anxious to get the return of this ordnance. It's clearly extremely dangerous and needs to be disposed of in a safe manner. This is our primary concern."
The BBC further reported that a UN Mines Action Team has been working to collect and dispose of the ordnance since the operation ended.