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Six UN refugee agency workers killed in Gaza in 24 hours

Six workers with the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency were killed in just 24 hours in Gaza, bringing to 35 the total of its staff killed since 7 October

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Six workers with the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency were killed in just 24 hours in Gaza, the global body said Tuesday, bringing to 35 the total of its staff killed since 7 October.

Humanitarian and aid workers have not been spared in more than two weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip after Hamas gunmen carried out the worst attack in Israel’s 75-year history.

“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 Tuesday 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.

More than 5,000 people have died during Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, according to numbers given by the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel has been striking back following the 7 October attacks, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people who were shot, stabbed or burned to death by militants.

Israel, which says Hamas forces also seized 222 hostages, has been preparing a full-blown ground invasion of the overcrowded Palestinian enclave.

The UNRWA paid tribute on X, formerly Twitter, “to our 35 colleagues who have been killed in Gaza since 7 October”.

“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 7 October”.

“We mourn their loss & stand with colleagues doing all they can to assist those in need.”

Nearly 590,000 people — almost half of the more than 1.4 million people who have been displaced within the Gaza Strip since the bombardment began — have taken shelter in UNRWA facilities, OCHA said.

Twelve displaced people have been killed and nearly 180 wounded at the UN agency’s schools, while dozens of UNRWA installations have been damaged, it said.

In its update, OCHA warned that aid agencies were struggling to respond to the massive humanitarian needs of Gaza’s 2.4 million people, who have been largely deprived of water, food, electricity and other basic supplies after an Israeli blockade.

“Humanitarian partners cannot safely access people in need and warehouses where aid supplies are stored,” it said.

Aid finally began trickling in at the weekend, with more than 50 trucks carrying food, water and medicine but not fuel making it into Gaza so far.

But the UN says 100 aid trucks a day are needed.

— AFP

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