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White House ‘very concerned’ after Israeli forces strike UN facility in Rafah

White House ‘very concerned’ after Israeli forces strike UN facility in Rafah

The Biden administration is asking Israel for answers after an Israeli Defence Force strike on a United Nations Relief and Works Agency facility in Rafah killed an aid worker and injured civilians.

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby on Thursday told reporters the US is “in touch with our Israeli counterparts” to “gather more information about exactly what happened” in regards to the airstrike on the UN-run aid warehouse.

“We’re very concerned about that,” Mr Kirby said.

Israeli Defence Forces said the “precisely targeted” strike killed a Hamas commander, Muhammad Abu Hasna, who was allegedly “involved in taking control of humanitarian aid” and supervising “activities of various Hamas units”.

A UNRWA spokesperson said a number of the 22 aid workers at the facility were injured in the strike, some quite severely.

The head of UNWRA, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a statement that the “attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centres in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine”.

“Attacks against UN facilities, convoys and personnel have become commonplace, in blatant disregard to international humanitarian law,” he added.

Mr Kirby told reporters that the US offered “deepest condolences” to “all those who are affected” by the strike and said the US wants Israel to conduct a “swift investigation ... into exactly what happened”.

“We’ll stay in touch with them to get more information but we want to see a swift and thorough investigation as to exactly what happened here,” he said.

“We certainly understand respect and support Israel’s right to defend itself and to go after Hamas leaders. But we’ve also been clear that they have to do this in a way that protects innocent civilian lives, and humanitarian aid workers who are on the ground to protect those innocent civilian lives”.