Former Indian soldier employed at UN killed in Rafah

People protest against the war in the Gaza Strip and the planned ground operation in Rafah . Photo: AFP

A United Nations staff member, employed by the UN Department of Safety and Security, was tragically killed while travelling in a UN vehicle from Rafah to the European Hospital in the southwest corner of Khan Younis, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general stated on Monday. Another UN staffer was injured in the attack.

The deceased individual was identified as Waibhav Anil Kale, a 46-year-old Indian national who had recently begun working as a UN security service coordinator in Gaza, The Washington Post reported. These sources, speaking anonymously due to the ongoing investigation, noted that conclusive information about the perpetrators of the attack was not yet available.

Kale, who was married with twi children, was en route to the European Hospital in Rafah in a clearly marked UN vehicle when the incident occurred, as described by those familiar with the situation.

Haq confirmed that Kale's death marked the first international UN casualty since the conflict began on October 7. He emphasized that all UN convoys' movements are communicated to the Israeli authorities and that they are clearly identifiable as UN vehicles.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces stated that they had not been informed of the vehicle's route and that the incident was under review.

Video footage from the European Hospital's emergency department, where the injured UN worker is reportedly receiving treatment, depicted the aftermath of the attack on Monday. Bullet holes were visible in the UN-marked vehicle, with a UN flag prominently displayed.

Avi Hyman, a spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, reported in a news briefing that 87 percent of UN aid distribution coordination requests had been approved. However, approved travel routes do not always ensure safe passage for aid personnel.

Since October 7, 191 UN workers, including the worker killed on Monday, have lost their lives in Gaza, according to Olga Cherevno, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The vast majority of them were Palestinians. This conflict has resulted in the highest number of casualties among UN workers since the agency began recording such incidents.

In light of the significant toll on civilians and humanitarian workers, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages. The death of the UN worker occurred shortly after the Biden administration released a 46-page unclassified report, stating that it was "reasonable to assess" that Israel had violated international law by using US weapons in its military operations in Gaza, hindering the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

"There is no safe haven in Gaza, even for aid workers benefiting from a deconfliction system," remarked Anastasia Moran, associate director for US advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, during a briefing on Monday. "The deconfliction system, in use for six months, has failed to protect the humanitarian community."

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