Sunday, May 19, 2024

UN launches investigation into attack that killed staff member in Gaza’s Rafah

The United Nations has assembled a fact-finding panel to probe an attack that killed one staff member and injured another in Rafah in southern Gaza.

A vehicle branded with UN insignia was targeted on Monday, prompting swift condemnation from international leaders.

Initial assessments suggest the fatal shot was fired from a tank in the neighborhood, striking the back of the UN vehicle, according to deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

Discussions are underway with Israeli authorities to determine the circumstances of the attack and the nature of the explosion.

The deceased UN staffer was from India. His death marked the first time an international UN worker was killed during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The injured colleague, from Jordan, is hospitalized. Both were employed by the UN Department for Safety and Security.

With 71 international staff members stationed in Gaza, the attack stresses the dangers faced by humanitarian workers in war zones.

At least 254 UN aid workers have been killed since October, according to the agency.

Israeli forces have struck known locations of aid workers in Gaza at least eight times since October 7 despite agencies providing their coordinates “to ensure their protection”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced.

At least 15 people, including two children, were killed in the eight attacks, HRW said in a report on Tuesday. Israeli authorities did not issue advance warning to any of the relief organizations before the strikes, HRW alleged.

The strike in one of the reported attacks — on January 18 — was most likely carried out with a US-made munition that included British-made components, the UK-based NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians said, citing UN inspectors. The bomb was delivered by an F-16 aircraft.

“The governments that continue to provide arms to the Israeli government risk complicity in war crimes,” HRW added.

The eight attacks “reveal fundamental flaws with the so-called deconfliction system, meant to protect aid workers”, according to the report.

Staff from 11 humanitarian organizations and UN agencies in Gaza told HRW that Israeli attacks on aid workers “forced them to take various measures”, including suspending or “severely restricting” operations, and reducing employees in the enclave.

“Israeli authorities are deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, wilfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas, and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to its survival.”

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