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Indian is first international UN employee killed in Gaza conflict; Guterres condemns attack

United Nations, May 14,2024
An Indian working for the United Nations in Gaza has become the first non-Palestinian staffer to be killed during the current Gaza conflict when his vehicle was attacked on its way to a hospital in Rafah.

The victim was identified as Col. Waibhav Anil Kale, who had started working a month ago as a security coordinator for the UN in Gaza, according to The Washington Post, which quoted unnamed informed sources.

Kale, who worked for the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS) joins the roster of more than 200 Indians who have died in the service of the UN.

The majority of them – 179 – are peacekeepers but many other Indian civilians, who like employees of the DSS are not peacekeepers, have died working for the UN in various capacities in trouble spots.

Earlier, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who announced the death, did not identify him pending notification to his family and government.

Haq said that Guterres condemned the attack and called for a full investigation.

Another UN employee was injured in the Monday attack, he said.

The blame for the attack has not been fixed because the situation remains murky in Rafah.

Haq did not say who carried out the attack.

Al Jazeera broadcast clips showing windows with bullet holes on the attacked vehicle flying UN flags and bearing large UN markings.

From the nature of the damage, it did not appear to have been an air or heavy artillery attack.

He said that Monday’s victim was the first international employee of the UN killed in Gaza since October 7, although 188 Palestinian employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN arm for humanitarian services for Palestinians, have been killed.

“We will be working with the authorities on the ground to get restitution for all of those who have been killed,” Haq declared.

The Post said that according to its sources, Kale was a 46-year-old father of two teenage children.

Other media reports said that he had earlier worked for the Indian Army.

Israel Defense Forces said that according to an initial inquiry, Monday’s attack happened in an active combat zone and that it was not made aware of the vehicle’s movement.

Haq said that the DSS staffers were in the vehicle with clear UN markings that was in a convoy engaged in “their regular work [for which] they go to different locations to assess security conditions. And this was the European Hospital in Rafah”.

Asked what the UN was doing to seek justice for the UN employees killed in the conflict, Haq said, “In all cases, we are going to set up measures for accountability”.

“A lot of that, as you know, requires ultimately for an end to the conflict so that we can work these out,” he said.

Guterres reiterated his call for a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of the hostages taken by Hamas, which sparked the conflict with an attack on Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and 128 were kidnapped.

Israel’s retaliation on Gaza, from where Hamas launched the attack, has killed about 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women, children or the aged.

Last month, four foreigners and three Palestinians working for a non-profit organisation, were killed in Gaza.(Agency)

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