GENEVA: UN offices worldwide lowered their flags to half-staff and observed silence on Monday in memory of the 101 staff members of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East who have lost their lives in Gaza.
The blue and white UN flag was lowered at 9:30 am local time at offices in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing, a day after the world body reported “a significant number of deaths and injuries” in strikes on a facility in Gaza.
In Geneva, the second-largest UN headquarters after New York, the UN flag flew at half-mast and none of the other flags of the 193 member countries were hoisted along the main alley of the compound. Staff were also invited to hold a “private” minute of silence, spokesman Rolando Gomez said.
Events were also held in Katmandu and Kabul, where the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva led about 250 people in observing the minute’s silence.
The death toll among UNRWA employees in the recent violence is the highest in UN history, and continues to rise.
Among those who have died were teachers, school principals, health professionals, engineers, administrative personnel, and a psychologist. They were part of the 13,000-strong UNRWA workforce in Gaza.
Tom White, UNRWA’s director in the Gaza Strip, said: “UNRWA staff in Gaza appreciate the UN lowering the flag around the world. In Gaza, however, we have to keep the UN flag flying high as a sign that we are still standing and serving the people of Gaza.”
The agency is sheltering approximately 780,000 Palestinians in more than 150 facilities in the Gaza Strip. These people have sought refuge under the UN flag.
Israeli violence in Gaza has not spared UN locations. Over 60 facilities have been impacted so far, with 10 receiving direct hits, the majority of these being in the central and southern regions, extending from Wadi Gaza.
More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.