José Andrés denounces the bombing of the convoy: “It was a car-by-car attack”

“Identification error,” as the Israeli army officially said, or the result of “each commander establishing his own rules,” as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published this Wednesday, citing military sources.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
03 April 2024 Wednesday 04:21
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José Andrés denounces the bombing of the convoy: “It was a car-by-car attack”

“Identification error,” as the Israeli army officially said, or the result of “each commander establishing his own rules,” as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published this Wednesday, citing military sources. Be that as it may, Israel used three rockets, probably fired by a drone, in the attack against the convoy of the American NGO World Central Kitchen (WCK), founded by Spanish chef José Andrés, in central Gaza on Monday night. One projectile for each vehicle.

José Andrés insisted this Wednesday during an interview in the US that the attack was “systematic” and “car by car.” “Even if there had been no coordination – with the army –, no democratic country and no military can target civilians and humanitarians.” Previously, he had demanded in an article published in The New York Times an investigation that “must start from the top, not just from the bottom,” recalling that it was “a direct attack against clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known to the Israeli army.”

Seven humanitarian workers affiliated with the organization that distributes food and prepared meals in the strip died in the bombing, citizens of Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Palestine and one with dual nationality (from the United States and Canada). The bodies of six of them were evacuated to Egypt through the Rafah crossing this Wednesday.

“I want to be very clear,” said Israeli Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, presenting preliminary conclusions of what happened. “The attack was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK humanitarian workers. It was a failure due to a mistaken identification: at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. “It shouldn’t have happened,” he stated.

The version offered by the newspaper Haaretz reveals that the military suspected that a terrorist was in the caravan, since minutes before their departure they had detected an armed man in a truck. However, both the truck and the individual, who was probably armed for security reasons when delivering food, stayed in the Deir el Balah warehouse where they had unloaded 100 tons of food.

A drone – probably a Hermes 450, according to Haaretz – fired at the vehicles as they traveled along the Al Rashid road, which links Deir al Balah to the south of the strip along the coast, despite the fact that the vehicles were clearly marked with the logo of the organization and that the group had given the Israeli army information about the time and route they were going to take, World Central Kitchen stated.

The attack lasted several minutes, as a first rocket hit the vehicle leading the convoy, and the survivors ran to take refuge in the next car, while they informed WCK officials of the attack. But this car was also hit by another rocket. A third vehicle approached to help them, but after 1.6 kilometers it was shot again. A distance of 2.4 kilometers separated the first vehicle from the last.

Military sources confirmed to Haaretz that the attack was the result of a lack of discipline on the part of commanders on the ground, and not due to coordination problems between the army and the humanitarian organization. According to these sources, the commanders and forces involved acted against orders and instructions. An officer quoted by the Times of Israel newspaper expressed the same sentiment – ​​according to whom the “shoot first, ask questions later” culture is gaining ground in the army – and the renowned Israeli analyst Barak Ravid, who recalled that “it is not a isolated incident”, alluding to the death of three hostages with a white flag by army shots, and noted that “each commander has a different interpretation of the orders.”

In any case, the Al Rashid road is considered a “high risk area” by the United Nations due to the incidents recorded so far. The UN announced this Wednesday that it was suspending activities in Gaza for 48 hours. At least 196 humanitarian workers have died in the strip since October 7, the vast majority members of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

World Central Kitchen announced this Wednesday that it was suspending its operations in the strip and its ships have returned to Cyprus with 240 tons of undelivered aid. The organization had been working in Gaza since December, and its current mission was to establish a maritime humanitarian corridor between Cyprus and Gaza, and thus overcome the enormous obstacles imposed by Israel for the delivery of aid by land.

Herzi Halevi promised that the military will “learn” from the conclusions of the “comprehensive investigation” that will be carried out in the coming days, “implement immediate measures, and share those conclusions with WCK and other relevant international organizations.”

Meanwhile, this Wednesday international pressure grew, asking Prime Minister Beniamin Netanyahu for explanations. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, spoke personally with the Israeli leader about the death of three of the aid workers, who had British nationality. For his part, US President Joe Biden lamented that “Israel has not done enough” to protect humanitarian workers and civilians in Gaza. The president indicated that the investigation by the Israeli authorities "must be rapid, it must demand accountability and its conclusions must be made public," although he has maintained that this case "is not an isolated incident."

The Prime Minister of Poland (one of the dead aid workers was Polish), Donald Tusk, said that “the tragic attack and their reaction [by the Israelis] is generating understandable anger (...) You cannot minimize the case by saying that these "Things happen in war, as Netanyahu said." The Israeli prime minister spoke Tuesday of “involuntary attack” and said that “this happens in times of war.” The Polish Government summoned the Israeli ambassador for Friday.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, and the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, also demanded a “rapid” investigation, speaking of “murder by the Israeli Defense Forces.”

The seven deceased are the Palestinian Saif Issam Abu Taha, the Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, the Polish Damian Soból, the Canadian-American Jacob Flickinger and the British John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby.