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Indian missions assisting in repatriation of mortal remains of killed retired Col in Gaza: MEA

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday said that Indian missions in the UN and in Israel are assisting in bringing back the mortal remains of Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale (Retd), who was killed in Gaza while working as a UN staffer.

"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," the Ministry of External Affairs said in an official statement.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale (Retd), Security Coordination Officer in the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS) in Gaza on 13 May 2024. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and dear ones," the statement also said.

Meanwhile, a deathly silence has descended on the Thane residence of Waibhav Anil Kale after his family members received word of the killing of the former Indian Army officer, who worked for the United Nations in Gaza.

Kale (46) died while travelling in a vehicle to a hospital in the Khan Younis area from Rafah.

Speaking to ANI, Mugdha Ashok Kale, the aunt of the retired colonel, said she was still struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was no more. "When we heard about Waibhav, it came as a big shock. We still can't believe he is no more. We hadn't even seen much of him in the recent past. However, it feels he is still with us in spirit. Even though the bitter truth comes out eventually, our minds aren't ready to accept and reconcile with it. Hence, for us, Waibhav is still alive," she told ANI.

On his lifelong dedication to service as an army officer and thereafter, as a UN staffer, Chinmay Ashok Kale, his cousin, told ANI, "He was very active and always up to something since childhood. However, he was also very dedicated to his family and would catch up and spend time with us whenever he could. Patriotism and service to the nation run in the veins of the Kale family. It was his grandfather's wish that he join the forces. He sat for the exam on several occasions but couldn't crack it. However, he did not lose heart and kept at it till he finally fulfilled his grandfather's dream by being drafted into the army."

Ajita Kale, the sister-in-law of the slain UN staffer, spoke highly of his 'unwavering commitment' to serving his country, saying, "When he joined the forces, it wasn't just about putting his life on the line for the country, as per the highest traditions of the army, but also about living for his homeland. When Waibhav joined the army, he was ready to give his all for the country."

The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, on Tuesday, extended its condolences to his family.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Col Vaibhav Kale, working for the UN Department of Safety and Security in Gaza. Our deepest condolences are with the family during this difficult time," read a post on the official X handle of India's Permanent Mission to the UN.

The UN, too, consoled his death with Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the Secretary-General, conveying condolences on the latter's behalf over the death of the Indian staffer in an official statement.

"The Secretary-General was deeply saddened to learn of the death of a United Nations Department of Safety and Security (DSS) staff member and injury to another DSS staffer when their UN vehicle was struck as they travelled to the European Hospital in Rafah this morning," the UN said in a statement.

According to the statement from the world body, Waibhav joined the United Nations as the security service coordinator and was posted a month ago in Gaza.

The Secretary-General also came out in condemnation of all such attacks on the UN personnel, calling for a full investigation.

"The Secretary-General condemns all attacks on UN personnel and calls for a full investigation. He sends his condolences to the family of the fallen staff member," the statement read.

The Secretary-General also called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages.

"With the conflict in Gaza continuing to take a heavy toll - not only on civilians but also on humanitarian workers - the Secretary-General reiterates his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages," the statement added.

Kale was commissioned into the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles Regiment of the Indian Army and had taken retirement two years ago to join the UN. 

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