Former Indian Army officer employed with U.N. killed in Rafah

Another staff member of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security was injured when their vehicle was struck on the way to a hospital in the strife-torn city.

Updated - May 15, 2024 12:45 am IST

Published - May 14, 2024 06:31 am IST - New Delhi

Former Indian Army officer Col. Waibhav Anil Kale. Photo: Special Arrangement

Former Indian Army officer Col. Waibhav Anil Kale. Photo: Special Arrangement

Former Army officer Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale, who was working with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), was killed and another staff member injured when their vehicle was struck as they travelled to the European Hospital in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza strip bordering Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, on Monday morning.

This makes it the first international casualty for the world body since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7, 2023. Israel had launched a major offensive in Rafah just days ago.

Colonel Kale had joined the UNDSS as a security coordination officer about five to six weeks ago, officials said. His mortal remains are scheduled to arrive in India on Tuesday evening. Officials in the know said the incident was being investigated and there was no conclusive information yet on who fired at the UN vehicle which was clearly marked.

“Today a UN vehicle was struck in Gaza, killing one of our colleagues and injuring another. More than 190 UN staff have been killed in Gaza. Humanitarian workers must be protected. I condemn all attacks on UN personnel and reiterate my urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire & the release of all hostages,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a post on X.

Colonel Kale was an infantry officer with the 11 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles regiment of the Indian Army. He took premature retirement two years ago following which he worked with multinational companies before joining the UN last month. He is survived by his wife and two teenaged children, who are based in Pune.

In a statement, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the Secretary-General, said Mr. Guterres condemned all attacks on UN personnel and called for a full investigation. “With the conflict in Gaza continuing to take a heavy toll – not only on civilians, but also on humanitarian workers – the Secretary-General reiterates his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for the release of all hostages,” Mr. Haq said at a press conference.

An official said that the UN informs the Israeli side of the movement of all their convoys. “They are all clearly marked UN vehicles,” the official said.

Humanitarian aid workers have been targeted on several occasions during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict causing severe disruptions to much-needed aid.

On the situation in Gaza, Mr. Haq said that according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), ground incursions and heavy fighting continued to be reported in eastern Rafah, as well as Gaza city and the Jabaliya refugee camp.

“The UN Relief and Works Agency reports that nearly 360,000 people have fled Rafah since the first evacuation order a week ago. Many of them have already been displaced multiple times over the past seven months,” he said.

Evacuation orders issued on Saturday for northern Gaza, amid Israeli bombardment there, have resulted in the displacement of some 100,000 people so far, he said.

“Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the incursion into Rafah has jeopardised the provision of health services, access to health care, and the delivery of life-saving supplies,” Mr. Haq added.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Col Waibhav Kale, working for the UNDSS in Gaza. Our deepest condolences are with the family during this difficult time,” the Permanent Mission of India to the UN said on X.

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