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UN chief mourns staff slain, displaced by Israel in Gaza after another strike hits facility

June 6, 2024 at 5:04 pm

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during United Nations Security Council meeting following Iran’s recent attack on Israel, at UN headquarters in New York City, United States on April 14, 2024 [Fatih Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

The UN chief, on Thursday, commemorated UN staffers killed or displaced by Israel’s ongoing “military operations” in Gaza, reiterating his demand for “full accountability for each and every one of these deaths”, Anadolu Agency reports.

Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, acknowledged the grim, historic nature of the toll Israel’s war has taken on UN personnel, saying the death toll represents “by far the highest number of our personnel killed in a single conflict or natural disaster since the creation of United Nations, a reality we can never accept.”

“Our UNRWA personnel lived and died as representatives of the international community in Gaza, and that community deserves an explanation,” he told a commemoration ceremony at the UN’s New York headquarters, referring to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

“We stand for peace through diplomacy and dialogue. As hatred and discrimination increase, we stand for the human rights and dignity of every single person. And as the global majority and endure economic turmoil, we stand for inclusive, sustainable development that leaves no one behind. Despite our differences, we should all agree that those who serve these values and the UN flag are entitled to protection,” he added.

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Nearly 200 UN staffers – exactly 192 – have been killed in Gaza, according to the latest information provided by the UNRWA. A further 186 UNRWA facilities have been damaged.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency, said Thursday that an overnight Israeli airstrike on an UNRWA school-turned-makeshift-shelter killed 35 people and left “many more injured.” It was housing 6,000 displaced people when it was attacked.

“Another horrific day in Gaza. Another UNRWA school turned shelter attacked. This time in Nuseirat, in the Middle Areas, hit overnight by the Israeli Forces without prior warning to the displaced or UNRWA,” he said on X.

“Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of International Humanitarian law. UN staff, premises and operations must be protected at all times,” he added.

The Israeli military, for its part, admitted hitting the UNRWA school in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza, claiming Hamas fighters were hiding inside.

Lazzarini said the UN is “unable to verify these claims”.

Israel has continued its sweeping offensive on Gaza since a 7 October, 2023 Hamas attack despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Over 36,600 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and over 83,000 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Vast tracts of Gaza also lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in its latest ruling has ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on 6 May.

WATCH: Israel strikes UNRWA school in Gaza ‘safe zone’