Guterres ‘personally devastated’ over UN’s failure to protect Gaza personnel despite efforts – Global Issues

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Among them were 135 women and men who worked for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), killed during Israeli military operations in Gaza since October 7. Many were murdered along with their families and within the communities they served.

“That is by far the highest number of our personnel killed in a single conflict or natural disaster since the founding of the United Nations – a reality we can never accept,” Secretary General António Guterres said.

He reiterated his call for “full responsibility” for the deaths.

“We owe this to their family members and friends, to their colleagues and to the world. Our UNRWA staff lived and died as representatives of the international community in Gaza that community deserves an explanation.”

Families have also disappeared

In the Trusteeship Council, overlooked by the iconic image of a girl – her arms raised, reaching for a flying bird symbolizing ‘Humanity and Hope’ – the names of the fallen were read out.

In accordance with the institution’s rules, the permission of relatives was sought to include the names of their loved ones in the service. However, this applies to UNRWA only 22 families could be contacted.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to reach many relatives of our UNRWA colleagues because they have been killed or driven from their homes by Israeli military operations,” Mr. Guterres said.

The remaining UNRWA personnel were remembered with their professional titles.

“They were teachers, drivers, doctors, sanitation workers, security guards, pharmacists, administrative assistants and more. They were mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives. They were our colleagues. They were our friends,” Mr. Guterres said.

I am personally devastated that, despite our best efforts, we were unable to protect our personnel in Gaza.”

A special memorial | United Nations Memorial Service for personnel who lost their lives in 2023

‘Nations united’

Between January 1 and December 31, 2023, the lost UN personnel came from a total of 37 countries and worked for 18 different entities. They were military, police and civilian personnel.

“They were the embodiment of united nations. They were multilateralism in action. And they made the ultimate sacrifice for that cause”, said Mr Guterres, emphasizing that in today’s politically divided world, the core values ​​of the UN are more important than ever.

“Despite our differences, we must all agree that those who serve these values ​​under the UN flag are entitled to protection,” he concluded.

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