UN peacekeeper, ex-Indian Army Colonel, killed in Rafah; Israel launches investigation

Retired Indian Army Colonel turned UN peacekeeper, Waibhav Anil Kale, was tragically killed in Rafah, becoming the first international casualty of Israel’s conflict with Hamas.

A retired Colonel of the Indian Army turned United Nations (UN) peacekeeper, Waibhav Anil Kale, tragically lost his life in Rafah on Monday, marking what is believed to be the first “international” casualty of the ongoing Israel onslaught against Hamas. The 46-year-old Kale, who had joined the UN just two months prior and was deputed to Gaza, was targeted while travelling in a marked UN vehicle, which bore the organization’s flag and lettering.

The incident occurred as Kale and fellow UN staff members were en route to the European Hospital in Rafah, where another UN staffer sustained injuries and is currently undergoing treatment. Kale’s decision to join the UN stemmed from his desire to “make a difference” after a distinguished career in the Indian Army, according to sources close to him.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed profound sadness over Kale’s death and called for a thorough investigation into the attack. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed ignorance regarding the route of the UN vehicle, though UN sources affirm that all movement of UN personnel is communicated to the Israeli side.

The tragic incident highlights the perilous conditions facing humanitarian workers in conflict zones, with Guterres reiterating the urgent need for a ceasefire and the protection of aid personnel. This sentiment was echoed by IDF, which acknowledged that travel approvals do not always ensure safe passage for humanitarian workers.

The attack on Kale comes amidst escalating tensions in Rafah, the sole point of access into the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have issued evacuation orders for civilians. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recently shut down its headquarters in East Jerusalem due to security threats, underscoring the volatile situation in the region.

As the conflict rages on, the humanitarian situation in Rafah continues to deteriorate, with the Rafah crossing remaining closed and health services severely impacted.