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Israeli airstrike killed a USAID contractor in Gaza, colleagues say

Thirty-three-year-old Hani Jnena was killed November 5 along with his wife, their two infant daughters, and her family

Smoke billows in Rafah following an Israeli air raid on the southern Gaza Strip city on December 1, 2023.
Smoke billows in Rafah following an Israeli air raid on the southern Gaza Strip city on December 1, 2023.SAID KHATIB (AFP)

An Israeli airstrike killed a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor in Gaza last month, his colleagues said in a statement Saturday. The U.S. development agency noted the death and urged greater protection for humanitarian workers in the fighting there.

Hani Jnena, 33, was killed November 5 along with his wife, their two-year-old and four-year-old daughters, and her family, the U.S.-based humanitarian group Global Communities said.

An internet-technology worker, Jnena had fled his neighborhood in Gaza City with his family to escape the airstrikes, only to be killed while sheltering with his in-laws, the group said. His employer was an on-the-ground partner for USAID, the U.S. agency said.

The Washington Post first reported the death.

In a final message to a colleague, Hani had written, “my daughters are terrified, and I am trying to keep them calm, but this bombing is terrifying,” Global Communities said.

It was a rare report of the killing of someone with U.S.-government ties in the more than two-month war between Israel and Hamas. Numerous workers with local and international aid agencies, including more than 100 U.N. workers, have been killed in Gaza as Israel bombards areas crowded with civilians and battles with Hamas fighters on the ground.

Health officials in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 17,000 people have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children. Israel’s offensive is in response to an October 7 Hamas assault in Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

USAID employees had been prominent in recent open letters by U.S. government employees objecting to U.S. policy in support of Israel’s continued offensive, including President Joe Biden’s decision not to join many other governments in calling for a cease-fire.

In an email, USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings said Saturday, “The USAID community grieves the deaths of the innocent civilians and many humanitarian workers who have been killed in this conflict, including courageous individuals like Hani Jnena.”

“In providing assistance and advocating for greater safety for civilian populations and the humanitarians who serve them, we are doing our utmost to honor the dedication, fortitude, and compassion of all humanitarian workers who have been killed,” Jennings said.

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