A Palestinian medic treats a man injured in an Israeli attack

Injured Palestinians are brought to Najjar Hospital for treatment following the Israeli attack on the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees building in Rafah, Gaza on March 13, 2024.

(Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images)

UN Staffer Among Dozens Killed, Injured by Israeli Attack on Rafah Food Center

"The United Nations, its personnel, premises, and assets must be protected at all times," stressed the head of UNRWA—which says that 400 Palestinian aid-seekers have been killed since last month's Flour Massacre.

At least five people including a United Nations humanitarian worker were killed and more than 20 others wounded Wednesday by an Israeli attack on a Rafah food distribution center serving starving Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told the BBC that as many as 60 people were working at the warehouse for food and other essential humanitarian supplies when it was bombed by Israeli forces.

"Today's attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centers in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine," UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement. "Every day, we share the coordinates of all our facilities across the Gaza Strip with parties to the conflict. The Israeli Army received the coordinates including of this facility yesterday."

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said the "precise strike" targeted and killed an alleged Hamas commander, Mohammed Abu Hasna, whose name was on a list of victims provided by Gaza officials.

UNRWA noted that it has recorded "an unprecedented number of violations against its staff and facilities" by Israeli forces "that surpasses any other conflict around the world."

According to the agency:

  • At least 165 UNRWA team members have been killed, including while in the line of duty, since October 7;
  • More than 150 UNRWA facilities have been attacked by the IDF, with some totally destroyed;
  • More than 400 people have been killed while seeking shelter under the U.N. flag;
  • Tunnels have reportedly been found under UNRWA facilities and installations used for IDF military activities; and
  • UNRWA staff have reportedly been mistreated and humiliated while in Israeli detention centers.

UNRWA says its workers have been beaten and waterboarded by Israeli troops in an attempt to force them to make false confessions about their participation or complicity in the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

"The United Nations, its personnel, premises, and assets must be protected at all times," Lazzarini stressed. "Since this war began, attacks against U.N. facilities, convoys, and personnel have become commonplace in blatant disregard to international humanitarian law."

Israeli officials have claimed with little evidence that a handful of UNRWA's more than 13,000 employees were involved in the October 7 attacks, allegations that prompted nations including the United States to cut off funding for the agency. In what Lazzarini admitted was an act of "reverse due process," UNRWA fired nine staffers that Israel linked to October 7 without any evidence of their involvement.

Countries including Canada and Sweden have since reinstated funding for UNRWA, which Lazzarini said "is facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations" providing shelter, aid, and other lifesaving services to Gazans facing not only Israeli bombs and bullets but also a genocidal siege and blockade that are starving Palestinians to death.

Including people missing and presumed dead and buried beneath the rubble of hundreds of thousands of bombed-out buildings, more than 111,500 Palestinians have been killed or wounded in Gaza, according to local health officials and international agencies and aid groups, who say that most of those slain have been women and children.

Gaza officials say more than 400 Palestinians seeking humanitarian aid have been killed and over 1,300 others injured by Israeli forces since the February 29 "Flour Massacre," in which IDF troops shot and shelled starving Gazans waiting for food aid. The attack—which Israel tried to blame on a "stampede"—killed at least 118 people and wounded upward of 760 others.

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