The United Nations said one of its employees was killed in Rafah while traveling in a vehicle marked with the U.N. flag.

The United Nations said one of its employees was killed in Rafah while traveling in a vehicle marked with the U.N. flag. (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

A United Nations staff member employed by the U.N. Department of Safety and Security was killed while traveling in a U.N. vehicle from Rafah to the European Hospital in the southwest corner of Khan Younis, according to a statement Monday by Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the secretary general. Another U.N. staffer was injured in the attack.

The person killed was Waibhav Anil Kale, 46, an Indian national who began work as a U.N. security service coordinator in Gaza last month, according to people familiar with the incident. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while the incident remains under investigation, said there was not yet conclusive information about who fired at the vehicle.

Married with two teenage children, Kale had been traveling in a clearly marked U.N. vehicle to the European Hospital in Rafah, said the people familiar with the incident.

Haq confirmed that Kale was the first international U.N. casualty since the beginning of the conflict on Oct 7. He added that “we inform the Israeli side of the movement of all our convoys. They are all clearly marked U.N. vehicles.”

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said the IDF had not been made aware of the route of the vehicle and said the incident was “under review.”

Video footage captured in front of the emergency department of the European Hospital — where the injured U.N. worker is reportedly receiving medical treatment — showed the aftermath of Monday’s attack. Bullet holes are visible in the rear windows of a white van with U.N. lettering stamped across the trunk and front doors of the vehicle — and a U.N. flag staked above the gas hub.

Avi Hyman, a spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said in a news briefing Monday that 87% of all U.N. coordination requests for aid distribution had been approved. But travel approvals do not always guarantee safe passage for aid personnel.

Since Oct. 7, 191 U.N. workers have been killed in Gaza — including Kale — according to Olga Cherevno, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Almost all of them were Palestinians. The Israel-Gaza war has become the most deadly conflict for U.N. workers since the agency began monitoring staff casualties.

Noting the war’s heavy toll on both civilians and humanitarian workers, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for “an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and for the release of all hostages.”

The death of the U.N. worker comes days after the Biden administration released a 46-page unclassified report stating that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had violated international law using U.S. weapons in its military campaign in Gaza, and that Israeli “action or inaction” had stymied the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

“There is no safe place in Gaza, even if you’re an aid worker who has the added benefit of a deconfliction system,” Anastasia Moran, associate director for U.S. advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, said in a briefing Monday. “The deconfliction system that has been used for six months has failed to protect the humanitarian community.”

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