UN says Israel-Gaza war is deadliest ever for its personnel

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GENEVA – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that 89 employees of the UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, had been killed in the Gaza Strip in the month of war between Israel and Hamas.

That is more “than in any comparable period in the history of our organization,” he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York, adding that many of the employees had been killed with members of their family.

The United Nations employs large numbers of Palestinians in Gaza, where almost half the working-age population is unemployed.

On Sunday, the leaders of UN agencies and other humanitarian groups issued a joint statement calling for an immediate cease-fire, saying: “Enough is enough. This must stop now.”

In the statement, they expressed “shock and horror” at the loss of life and called for the immediate release of hostages taken during the Hamas attacks in Israel in October.

They noted that “more than 100 attacks against health care” had been reported and that “scores of aid workers” had been killed since the attacks and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza.

Of the loss of UN staff members, Ms Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for UNRWA, said: “The number goes up every day.”

“They are killed in the north, the middle and the south, men and women, some at home, some at displacement shelters, some bringing refugees to the shelters,” she added.

One staff member was killed as he waited in line for bread, she said, and another was killed at home with his wife and eight children. Most worked in the agency’s schools in Gaza, she said.

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