UNRWA says one staffer killed in Israeli strike on aid center in Gaza’s Rafah

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The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said one of its staff members was killed on Wednesday in an Israeli strike on a food distribution center in war-hit Gaza.

“At least one UNRWA staff member was killed and another 22 were injured when Israeli forces hit a food distribution center in the eastern part of Rafah” in southern Gaza, the agency said in a statement.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The health ministry in the Gaza Strip had earlier said four people were killed in the “bombing of the warehouse.”

Wednesday’s incident comes amid mounting concern about worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza, where Israel has carried out military operations since October intended to eliminate the Hamas militant group.

“Today’s attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centers in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine,” said UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini.

He also said the UN had shared coordinates of the facility with the Israeli army on Tuesday.

An UNRWA spokeswoman said the facility was used “to distribute much-needed food and other lifesaving items to displaced people in southern Gaza.”

At least 165 UNRWA employees have been killed since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October, Wednesday’s UNRWA statement said.

“More than 150 UNRWA facilities were hit, some totally destroyed, among them many schools,” it said.

‘How can they bombard us?’

An AFP photographer saw victims of the strike on Wednesday arriving at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, at least one of whom was identified by other people at the hospital as a UN employee.

Witnesses said the strike compounded security fears in Rafah, which is overcrowded with 1.5 million mostly displaced people, further marring the normally festive Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which began on Monday.

“It’s an UNRWA center, expected to be secure,” said Rafah resident Sami Abu Salim.

“Some came to work to distribute aid to the people in need of food during the holy month of Ramadan. Suddenly, they were struck by two missiles.”

Hasan Abu Auda, displaced from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, said people had come to the warehouse “to sustain themselves for their daily meals.”

“It’s Ramadan today,” he said. “How can they bombard us during the month of Ramadan?”

The war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’ unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

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Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 31,272 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.

Gaza’s dire food shortages after more than five months of war have resulted in 27 deaths from malnutrition and dehydration, most of them children, the ministry says.

Cumbersome Israeli security checks on all cargoes entering the territory slow down the delivery of aid, and some trucks are sent back when they are found to contain forbidden items, aid workers say.

Israeli authorities say bottlenecks are caused by aid piling up on the Palestinian side as there are not enough trucks to distribute it.

-With AFP

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