Guterres expresses ‘appreciation’ for India’s contributions amid signs Indian UN staffer killed in Israel attack in Gaza 

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Guterres expresses ‘appreciation’ for India’s contributions amid signs Indian UN staffer killed in Israel attack in Gaza 
United Nations: Expressing appreciation for India’s contribution to the UN, Secretary General Antonio Guterres sends his “apologies” and “condolences” to the nation over the death of soldier-turned-UN staffer Waibhav Anil Kale in an attack in Gaza, his spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday.

The indications are that the vehicle Kale was traveling in was fired on by Israeli forces on Monday.

Haq said that the UN has set up a fact-finding panel to determine responsibility for Monday’s attack on the clearly marked UN vehicle that Kale, a security coordinator with the UN Department of Security and Safety (DSS), was travelling in.

The vehicle appears to have been hit by firing from a tank and the details of the incident “are still being verified with the Israeli Defense Forces”, he said.

Without naming Israel, he indicated that the attack was carried out by its forces.

“At this point, we are in discussion with Israel to determine exactly how this incident happened and the nature of what happened. I don’t think at this stage we are in doubt about where the shots came from as much as what the circumstances were,” he said, adding: “We believe it came from a tank in the area.”

Jordan has blamed Israel for the attack in which a woman from the country was injured.

Israel Defense Forces said that according to an initial inquiry, Monday’s attack happened in an active combat zone and that it was not made aware of the vehicle’s movement.

The white vehicle flying a UN flag and with large UN markings was attacked in the Rafah area of Gaza where more than a million Palestinians ordered out of other parts of the territory by Israel are crowded in.

Defying UN and international warnings, Israel has launched an incursion into Rafah in pursuit of Hamas.

Haq said: “We appreciate the contribution that India has made (to the UN) and we also express our apologies and our condolences to the government and people of India.”

Kale joins the roster of more than 200 Indians who have died in the service of the UN.

The majority of them – 179 – are peacekeepers but many other Indian civilians, who like employees of the DSS are not peacekeepers, have died working for the UN in various capacities in trouble spots.

Kale, a retired Indian Army colonel, was a 46-year-old father of two teenage children who had retired from the Army and joined the UN last month, according to a UN source.

Haq said that Kale is the first non-Palestinian killed in the current conflict in Gaza that flared up in October.

There were 71 foreigners working for the UN in Gaza but he did not have a breakdown by nationality, he said.

Haq said that 188 Palestinian employees of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN arm for humanitarian services for Palestinians, have been killed.

“We will be working with the authorities on the ground to get restitution for all of those who have been killed,” Haq declared.

DSS provides security for UN installations and personnel and often works under warlike conditions across the world.

The UN is supplying food and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, where its infrastructure has been destroyed in Israeli attacks and the UN has warned a famine is imminent. Haq said that Kale’s vehicle was in a convoy engaged in “their regular work (for which) they go to different locations to assess security conditions. And this was the European Hospital in Rafah”.

Guterres, who condemned the attack on Kale’s vehicle, reiterated his call for a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of the hostages taken by Hamas, which sparked the conflict with an attack on Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and 128 were kidnapped. Israel’s retaliation on Gaza, from where Hamas launched the attack, has killed about 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women, children or the aged.

Last month, four foreigners and three Palestinians working for a non-profit organisation, World’s Kitchen, were killed in Gaza. Israel admitted to carrying out the attack, which it asserted was inadvertent.

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