An Israeli military Apache helicopter fires missiles towards Gaza as seen from southern Israel, May 14, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

GENEVA: The United Nations said Tuesday that it had informed the Israeli authorities of the movements of a vehicle carrying UN staff which was hit in southern Gaza, killing an Indian.

One UN security services member was killed and another wounded in the attack on Monday, the United Nations said, marking the first death of a UN international employee in the Palestinian territory since the war began more than seven months ago.

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The employee killed was an Indian national, UN spokesman Rolando Gomez told a media briefing.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Col Waibhav Kale, working for the UN Department of Safety and Security in Gaza,” India’s mission to the UN in New York confirmed on X.

“Our deepest condolences are with the family during this difficult time.”

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A second UN DSS staff member who was in the vehicle at the time was wounded in the attack, Gomez said, adding that the two had been travelling to the European Hospital in Rafah when their vehicle was hit.

“The UN informs Israeli authorities of the movement of all of our convoys. That has been the case in any theatre of operation. This is a standard operating procedure,” said Gomez.

“This was the case yesterday (Monday) morning, so we have informed them. And it was a clearly marked UN vehicle.”

He added: “This is a sheer illustration that there’s really nowhere safe in Gaza at the moment.”

Combat zone

When asked about the attack, the Israeli military sent AFP a statement apparently drafted on Monday saying that the DSS had informed it of the hit.

“An initial inquiry conducted indicates that the vehicle was hit in an area declared an active combat zone,” the military said, maintaining that it had “not been made aware of the route of the vehicle”.

“The incident is under review,” it said, without attributing responsibility for the strike.

Gomez said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for a full investigation.

“Of course we want accountability. This is the ultimate aim of this investigation. International humanitarian workers are not targets, so such attacks must end,” he said.

While Monday’s attack marked the first time a UN international employee has been killed in the Gaza war, a large number of local staff have been killed.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, alone has lost 188 of its 13,000 Gaza staff, according to UN figures.

“No one is safe in Gaza, including aid workers,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on X, formerly Twitter.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,173 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.