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'Service Always Came First': Family of Indian-Origin UN Official Killed in Gaza

A UN fact-checking panel has been set up to investigate the incident and determine who the accountable party was.

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"Service towards people always came first for him – whether when he served in the Indian Army or when he joined the United Nations," a relative of Colonel (Retd) Waibhav Anil Kale told The Quint over a telephonic interview.

Kale, who was working as a security coordination officer with the UN, died on Monday, 13 May in war-torn Gaza – making him the 'first international casualty for the UN' since the Israel-Hamas conflict started.

The 46-year-old was a former Indian Army official from Maharashtra's Nagpur who took voluntary retirement in 2022. He joined the United Nations Department for Safety and Security (DSS) just a few weeks ago. He had previously served as the world body’s contingent chief security officer between 2009 and 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of Kale's relatives, who did not wish to be named, said:

"It is difficult to accept that he is no more. The entire family is in shock. The country always came first for him, and he came from a family whose members dedicated their lives to the army."
Waibhav Anil Kale's relative to The Quint

A number of Kale's family members served in the armed forces, including his brother Vishal Kale, an Indian Air Force official, his cousin Amey Kale who served in the army, and his brother-in-law Prasant Karde, a retired Wing Commander.

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In a detailed statement shared with The Quint, Farhan Aziz, Deputy Spokesperson of the UN Secretary General, said that Kale was among 71 international staff members deployed in war-torn Palestine to oversee humanitarian operations.

Shedding light on the tragic incident that claimed the Indian official's life, he said:

"What we know so far indicates that a weapon appears to have impacted the back of a white UN vehicle, carrying two UN staff members, killing one and injuring another. The deceased staff member has been identified (as) Waibhav Anil Kale of India, and we send our condolences to his family."

'Fact-Checking Panel Set Up': UN Official

Aziz further said that a UN fact-checking panel has been set up to investigate the incident and determine who the accountable party was.

"It's very early in the investigation, and details of the incident are still being verified with the Israeli Defence Force," Aziz said, adding, "I don't think at this stage we are in doubt about where the shots came from as much as what the circumstances were."

Further, the UN official expressed condolences to the Indian government over Kale's death.

"We appreciate the contribution that India has made, and we also express our apologies and our condolences to the government and people of India."

The Quint also spoke to Rosalina Bollen, a UNDSS official who is part of the team investigating the incident that led to Kale's death. However, she refused to indulge details in the matter, citing an "internal investigation" by the UN.
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'Mortal Remains To Be Sent Back to India': Indian Mission

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Israel took to X on Friday, 17 May, to say that Kale's remains will be sent to India.

"Embassy officials joined by senior officials from @IsraelMFA, @IDF, @UNDSS and other UN organizations paid their last respects to the mortal remains of Col. Waibhav Anil Kale (Retd.), who lost his life in Gaza. The mortal remains are on their final journey to India," they said.

Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had taken to social media to express condolences to Kale's family over the incident.

"Our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and our Missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah are extending all assistance in the repatriation of mortal remains to India and continue to be in touch with relevant authorities regarding the investigation into the incident," MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on Wednesday, 15 May.

India's Permanent Mission at the UN had also expressed condolences over the incident.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Col Waibhav Kale, working for the UN Department of Safety and Security in Gaza. Our deepest condolences are with the family during this difficult time," they said on Tuesday, 14 May.

Kale is survived by his wife Amruta and two children, Radhika and Vedant.

He had joined the Indian Army in 1998 and held a number of prominent positions over the years. He served as a security and weapons trainer from 2004 to 2006 and commander of a rifle company from 2006 to 2009.

He also served as the head of the Youth Development Programme of the Indian government between 2018 and 2020, following which he took up the post of deputy sector commander in the Indian Army from 2020 to 2022 before retiring.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Gaza   Hamas   Israel Palestine 

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