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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Scores of UN Workers and Journalists Killed in Israel's Indiscriminate Strikes on Gaza

"We are in shock and mourning," said the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency. "We are devastated. We are grieving with each other and with the families."

Image via the UN on Twitter

By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday that 35 U.N. humanitarian workers—many of them teachers—have been killed in Gaza since Israeli forces began bombarding the besieged enclave earlier this month, while a media nonprofit said at least 20 journalists were killed by Israel's bombs or bullets since the start of the war.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said 35 of its employees have been killed in Gaza since October 7, when Israel began pounding the strip with air and artillery strikes after a Hamas-led infiltration killed more than 1,400 people in southern Israel.

"We are in shock and mourning," the agency said on Sunday. "Half of these colleagues were UNRWA teachers. As an agency, we are devastated. We are grieving with each other and with the families."

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told CBS News on Sunday: "They're all teachers, doctors, gynecologists, types of social workers. And certainly, we might have more people to come. What we know... is that Gaza is under total siege."

As in past assaults on Gaza, Israeli forces have destroyed or damaged U.N. and other schools. Twelve internally displaced Palestinians have been killed while sheltering in UNRWA schools in Gaza, the agency said, with 180 others injured.

"Gaza is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which is unfolding under our watch," Lazzarini said. "We have 1 million people who have moved from their homes. Gaza City has been entirely... flattened down. Hospitals have been hit... More than 30 installations of the U.N. have been also hit. Thousands of people have been killed there."

More than 5,000 Palestinians, including over 2,000 children, have been killed during Israel's attack on Gaza, which has also wounded at least 15,000 people, destroyed nearly 170,000 homes, and displaced upward of 1.4 million people, according to Palestinian officials.

Early in the war, Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that the war would be waged with an "emphasis... on damage and not accuracy," while other Israeli and U.S. officials have called for what critics say are genocidal acts in Gaza.

Last week, Amnesty International said it had found "damning evidence of war crimes" committed by Israeli forces in Gaza, while also condemning Gaza-based militants for taking civilian hostages and indiscriminately firing rockets into Israel.

"We're seeing the combination of genocidal acts with special intent," Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal told Democracy Now! last week. "This is indeed a textbook case of genocide."

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based advocacy group, said Sunday that 20 media professionals—19 Palestinian and one Lebanese—have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7.

Some of the journalists were killed while working, like Smart Media reporter Mohammad Jarghoun and Ain Media photographer Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi, who were shot dead separately on October 7 while reporting from east of Rafah and Beit Hanoun, respectively.

Others, like Palestine Chronicle contributor Yousef Maher Dawas and freelance journalists Salam Mema and Assaad Shamlakh, were killed by Israeli airstrikes while sheltering in their homes with their families. Palestinian health officials said last week that more than 50 Gaza families, with about 500 members, have been removed from the civil registry after being wiped out by Israeli attacks.

Some journalists survived or were not present during Israeli attacks but lost relatives, like London-based We Are Not Numbers founder Ahmed Alnaouq, who said Monday that "around 30" members of his family—including his father, five siblings, and all of their children—were killed during a Sunday strike on their home.

"Israelis pulled the trigger. But it was an American-made F-16 that was used to kill my family," Alnaouq said. "And it was the Western media that provided the cover and green light."

At least eight Palestinian and international journalists were also wounded by Israeli forces, CPJ reported.

CPJ also said that three Israeli journalists—Ma'ariv editor Shai Regev, Israel Hayom photographer Yaniv Zohar, and Kan editor Ayelet Arnin—were killed during the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel.

"CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties," CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement. "Journalists across the region are making great sacrifices to cover this heartbreaking conflict. All parties must take steps to ensure their safety."

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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