UNRWA worker killed in Israeli air strike on aid centre

An UNRWA worker was among the five killed and 22 injured in an Israeli air strike on a food distribution centre in southern Gaza’s Rafah on March 13th, UNRWA reported. 

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini cited a “blatant disregard to international humanitarian law” on behalf of Israel in a statement. “Today’s attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centres in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine,” he added.

He disclosed that UNRWA shares the coordinates of its facilities with parties to the conflict. The Israeli Army got access to the specific location of the Rafah distribution centre the day of the attack, he said. 

According to UNRWA, at least 165 of its team members have been killed including while in the line of duty and over 150 facilities, including schools, have been hit and some totally destroyed.

READ: UNRWA boss insists Gaza famine can still be avoided

On February 4th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement at the start of the Government meeting in Tel Aviv, accusing UNRWA of “collaborating with Hamas.” “UNRWA is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem,” he added. 

Amnesty International reported that Rafah currently shelters 1.5 million people. Over one third of them are children. 

On December 5th, Israel Defense Forces Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told The Guardian that “thousands of tonnes of munition” had been dropped on Gaza and that “right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage,” he said. 

UNRWA’s food distribution centre was part of an ongoing effort to lessen the threat of encroaching famine among Gaza’s population. On March 6th, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Jamie McGoldrick said that “hunger has reached catastrophic levels.”

READ: WFP pauses aid deliveries to northern Gaza

The United States and Jordan are among countries making active attempts to aid Gaza’s inhabitants, and on March 12th, a ship carrying 200 tons of aid left Cyprus in a pilot project to open a sea corridor to deliver supplies. 

According to Reuters, on March 12th, the UN used a land route to deliver aid to northern Gaza’s enclave for the first time in three weeks. McGoldrick said that a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy had used an Israeli military road that runs along Gaza’s border. 

With the Gaza war now in its sixth month, global pressure has been growing on Israel to allow more access to the enclave.

Since Hamas’s initial attack on Oct. 7, spokesperson Lior Haiat of Israel’s Foreign Ministry reported 1,200 deaths. Al Jazeera’s live toll reports 31,000 Palestinian deaths. 

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