UNRWA says Israeli strike hits food aid center in Gaza, killing one staff member and injuring 22 others

Gaza strip — The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Wednesday that at least one of its employees was killed in an Israeli strike on a food distribution center in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

“At least one UNRWA staff member was killed and 22 others injured when Israeli forces struck a food distribution center in the eastern part of Rafah” in southern Gaza, the agency said in a statement. communicated.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a CBS News request for comment on the incident.

Site of Israeli strike on UNRWA aid distribution center in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip
A Palestinian reacts as blood stains the floor of an UNRWA aid distribution center following an Israeli strike, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the south of the Strip from Gaza, March 13, 2024.

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

THE the conflict rages in Gaza Since Hamas leaders launched their terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking some 240 others hostage, it has caused numerous civilian deaths and reduced large areas to rubble-strewn wastelands. that Israeli forces were entering the territory.

It also sparked warnings of looming famine in the Palestinian territory, where the vast majority of the 2.4 million residents have been displaced from their homes.

“We do not yet have more information on what exactly happened or on the number of UNRWA employees affected,” the UNRWA spokesperson told AFP earlier. Juliette Touma. “UNRWA is using these facilities to distribute much-needed food and other vital items to displaced people in southern Gaza.”

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said four people were killed in the “warehouse bombing.”

The ministry, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths, says more than 31,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, most of them women and children.

UNRWA under pressure

The UN agency itself has been accused by Israeli officials of protecting or even aiding Hamas, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has made clear that, in its view, UNRWA should be dismantled.

After Israeli officials presented a detailed report earlier this year alleging that UNRWA personnel participated in the October 7 attack as agents of Hamas, the Biden administration and many other Western countries who have long provided the money necessary for its operation suspended funding to UN agency.

The U.N. has launched an independent investigation into the Israeli allegations, and the United States and other countries have said future funding will depend largely on those findings and actions taken by the world body.

But the future of UNRWA’s international cash flows remains very uncertain.

Explaining UNRWA and its controversies


“We’ll see how this investigation goes, I mean, it’s extremely important,” said Samantha Power, the top official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). told CBS News in February, adding that the United States would also need “systemic changes” within UNRWA, “because that is simply not acceptable.”

Power noted, however, that there was really no effective alternative to distributing the life-saving aid needed in Gaza.

“90% of Gaza’s population has been displaced,” she said, adding that there was an “acute dependence” on humanitarian infrastructure” provided by UNRWA.

This was reiterated Tuesday by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, who told reporters that “UNWRA plays a crucial role in providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians that no other agency does.” ‘is able to assume’.

He added, however, that the US government was exploring “other groups and organizations capable of providing the humanitarian assistance provided by UNWRA.”

EU: “Famine is used as a weapon of war”

The strike came as donor countries, aid agencies and charities continued their efforts to get food to the impoverished territory.

A Spanish charity ship, the Open Arms, was en route to Gaza from Cyprus on Wednesday, after setting sail the day before towing a barge carrying 220 tonnes of aid, on a maiden voyage intended to open a maritime corridor.

President Biden announced plans for the corridor last week, saying the U.S. military would help build a temporary pier on the Mediterranean coast of Gaza to facilitate the docking of humanitarian ships. Work has started by a regional construction company, but construction of the pier is expected to take up to two months.

US troops mobilize for humanitarian effort in Gaza amid Middle East tensions


The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the humanitarian crisis “is man-made.”

“If we are considering other ways to provide support, it is because land crossing points have been artificially closed,” he said, accusing “starvation of being used as a weapon of war “.

Israel controls all land crossing points into Gaza.

The U.N. World Food Program, trying an alternative land route from southern Israel, sent the first six trucks of aid to the worst-hit northern Gaza on Tuesday through a security barrier gate, a indicated the Israeli army.

The WFP said it had “delivered enough food for 25,000 people” and demanded that “with residents of northern Gaza on the brink of famine, we need deliveries every day.” We need entry points directly into the north.”

About half a dozen Arab and Western countries also dropped food packages on parachutes to Gaza, and Morocco sent a relief plane via Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.

Dozens more dead, parties ‘not close to an agreement’ for a truce

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday that at least 88 people had been killed in the previous 24 hours, adding that “dozens of missing people are still under the rubble.”

The Israeli military said its troops were “intensifying operations” in the southern Gaza Strip, including in the largest city, Khan Younis.

Palestinians inspect the damage in the Qatar-funded town of Hamad following the Israeli raid in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinians walk among the rubble of residential buildings destroyed following an Israeli raid, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, March 13, 2024.

Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

“Over the past 24 hours, there have been exchanges of fire between IDF (Israeli Army) troops and a terrorist cell composed of seven terrorists barricaded inside a compound in the Hamad neighborhood of Khan Younis.” , he added. “In a coordinated strike, troops killed several terrorists, then ordered a plane to strike and eliminate the rest of the cell.”

Weeks of talks involving U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators aimed to reach a truce and agreement on the release of the hostages before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but missed a Monday deadline.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said that while talks continued, “we are not close to an agreement.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his promise to “destroy Hamas”, including by sending troops to the last part of Gaza that has so far been spared from ground operations, the far south of Rafah.

The prospect of an invasion of Rafah has sparked global concern because the city is home to nearly 1.5 million people, most of them displaced.

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