In a devastating turn of events, the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency confirmed on Tuesday that six of its dedicated workers were tragically killed within a mere 24-hour span in Gaza. This heartbreaking incident has pushed the grim toll of agency staff lost since October 7 to a staggering 35 lives.
“Since the start of hostilities, at least 16 health workers have been killed while on duty, along with 35 UNRWA staff,” the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said in an update sent on the situation up to Monday evening.
‘Six of (them) were killed in the past 24 hours.’ The UNRWA supports the 5.6 million Palestinian refugees across Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The UNRWA paid tribute on X, formerly Twitter, ‘to our 35 colleagues who have been killed in Gaza since Oct 7’. ‘We grieve and we remember. These are not just numbers.’
These are our friends and colleagues,` it said, adding that many of those killed were teachers in UNRWA-run schools.
UN chief Antonio Guterres also lamented on X the loss of `35 of our UNRWA colleagues humanitarian, teachers (who) have been killed in Gaza since October 7`.
The UN agency added, “40 UNRWA installations across Gaza have now been damaged” in the conflict.”
Later, in a UN press briefing in Geneva, UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai said: “At least 35 colleagues, and I think by now the numbers even higher, were killed during the active facilities in different strikes.”
She said that the UNRWA needs “much longer time” to assess what exactly happened on the ground due to its limited capacity, including collection of evidence and shrapnel to analyze.
“While some of our buildings (destroyed) and some of our colleagues killed because of Israeli strikes, I cannot confirm that for all of them,” Alrifai added.
The conflict in Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment and a blockade since Oct. 7, began when the Palestinian group Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea, and air.
It said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.