Israel calls drone strike on foreign aid workers a mistake

The deadly Israeli attack struck vehicles belonging to the World Central Kitchen and killed seven foreign aid workers despite the charity sharing coordinates with the Israeli military and displaying clear labels one the vehicle

April 02, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Passports of some of the slain foreign aid workers.

Strong, unequivocal condemnation and anger has been lodged at Israel following the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on aid convoys and aid workers which killed seven team members of the global food charity, the World Central Kitchen (WCK). Countries and organizations around the world, particularly those whose nationals were among those killed, are reacting with extreme shock and alarm at the targeting and killing of the seven WCK workers. According to reports, the assassinated aid workers included nationals from Palestine, Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, and a dual United States-Canada citizen.

Some have called on Israel to conduct a full, transparent and swift investigation to be conducted into the killing and for full accountability and justice, with many pointing out that Israel has been carrying out such crimes on a daily basis for six months with complete impunity. International groups have reiterated past calls for Israel to ensure the safety and security of aid workers and convoys who not only are not given protections, but in many cases are actually targeted.

The Israeli attack in which the seven WCK workers were killed reportedly took place in the city of Deir al-Balah when the workers, part of a convoy full of aid, were leaving a warehouse. They had just delivered more that 100 tons of aid that they had obtained through the maritime route and were working towards distributing the food aid and delivering more aid later. Reports noted that the workers were traveling in armored cars with clearly visible WCK logos on them, and they had also shared their coordinates with the Israeli military. Yet, despite taking all precautions and complying with Israeli requirements, they were hit with the deadly Israeli airstrike. Israel has so far expressed regret for the killings and has said that it is “investigating the incident.”

Global reaction and condemnation to the killings was swift and massive, putting Israel under intensified scrutiny and criticism not seen before during the course of the war. The founder of the WCK, a US-based food charity, Jose Anders, in a statement said that “he was heartbroken and grieving for the families and friends of our whole WCK family,” adding that “The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost.”

Australia, whose national was one of the victims, called the reports of the killings “very distressing,” and Australian prime minister Antony Albanese called for the Israelis to provide “full accountability” regarding the attack.

Cyprus, which has opened the only maritime corridor to deliver aid to Gaza and has organized and assisted in a number of the aid ships that have set sail towards Gaza, also denounced the attacks, with its foreign ministry on social media saying, “[International humanitarian law] principles are absolute: humanitarian aid workers must always be respected and protected. We call on a swift and conclusive investigation.”

Poland, who also lost a national in the attack, released a statement through its Foreign Ministry stating that “Poland objects to the disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers.” A Polish foreign ministry spokesperson also noted, “We are currently urgently verifying this information. We have asked the Israeli authorities, security forces and the Israeli armed forces for explanations.” Similarly, the United Kingdom has demanded that Israel conduct an investigation and provide a full, transparent explanation.

Dozens of other countries condemned the killings in addition to international aid organizations such as the World Food Program, World Health Organization, Norwegian Refugee Council, Islamic Relief, Open Arms Spanish Organization, UNICEF, as well as the European Commission and the United Nations emergency relief chief, Martin Griffiths. The United States, Israel’s primary global ally, called on Israel to “swiftly” investigate the killings, but fell short of condemning the killings.

As a consequence of the attack, the WCK also announced that it is pausing operations “immediately” in the region and would “make decisions about the future of our work soon. WCK was operating more than 60 kitchens in central and southern Gaza, cooking thousands of meals each day.

Concerns have been raised about the chilling effect this could have on other international humanitarian groups who may consider that it is too risky to operate amid Israeli bombardment and decide to suspend their operations. Such a collective decision by aid groups, if it actually comes to fruition, would leave millions of Palestinians in Gaza who are today desperately dependent on humanitarian aid, completely abandoned. In another concerning development following the killings, Cyprus has said that aid ships carrying 240 tons of aid for Gaza have now turned back and are returning to Cyprus, as Cyprus announced that it will review its security protocols.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed at least 71 Palestinians and injured 102 others in the last 24 hours of the genocide. The total death toll in Gaza has gone up to at least 32,916 Palestinians killed, along with 75,494 Palestinians injured. Dozens of casualties and injuries from Israeli aerial bombardment and ground assaults have been reported from various parts of Gaza, such as Rafah, Khan Younis, Deir al-Balah, Gaza city, among others as Israel’s war of genocide and ethnic cleansing continues uninterrupted for 179 consecutive days in a row.