More than 100 United Nations employees have been killed in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA). This makes it the deadliest conflict for the U.N. in such a short period of time. The deaths occurred as Israel’s aerial and ground war against Hamas continued in response to the cross-border assault by the Islamist group. Some of the employees were killed while waiting for bread, while others died with their families in their homes.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, expressed his devastation over the loss of more than 100 colleagues on social media. He emphasized that these individuals were parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, and support staff. The agency later confirmed that 101 colleagues had been killed. Juliette Touma, the Director of Communications at UNRWA, stated that these deaths represent the suffering of the people of Gaza and that they should never have happened.
In solidarity with the fallen UNRWA employees, U.N. staff around the world will observe a minute of silence and flags will be flown at half mast on Monday.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the civilian deaths in Gaza, alleging that the group uses the population as human shields and hides weapons around hospitals. However, the Aid Worker Security Database shows that the Israel-Hamas conflict has been the deadliest for U.N. aid workers, surpassing previous incidents in Nigeria and Afghanistan.
In addition to the UNRWA employees, seven other non-U.N. Palestinian aid workers have been killed in Gaza. While aid workers are protected under international humanitarian law, there are few precedents for such cases going to trial. Challenges in proving intent and concerns about future access for aid groups have been cited as obstacles.
UNRWA, which provides public services to Palestinian refugees, including education and healthcare, is facing financial difficulties even before the current crisis. The agency is uncertain if it can pay staff salaries until the end of the year.
The article was written by Emma Farge, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Riham Alkousaa, and Stephanie van den Berg, with editing by Miranda Murray and Mark Heinrich. The Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles are followed in their reporting.
Riham Alkousaa, the energy and climate change correspondent for RushHourDaily in Germany, has covered Europe’s green transition and energy crisis. She has 10 years of experience as a journalist, focusing on Europe’s refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war. Alkousaa has received several awards for her coverage, including the RushHourDaily Journalist of the Year awards in 2022.
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