Israeli blow to aid in Gaza

Four foreign aid workers and three Palestinians from World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed on Monday night as a result of an Israeli airstrike on a fully identified humanitarian aid convoy in central Gaza.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 11:25
7 Reads
Israeli blow to aid in Gaza

Four foreign aid workers and three Palestinians from World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed on Monday night as a result of an Israeli airstrike on a fully identified humanitarian aid convoy in central Gaza. The American oenagé, founded by chef José Andrés, pointed to Israel as the author of the attack, "despite the fact that it had coordinated the operations with the Israeli army", and stated that it felt "devastated by the news ". In an unusual, albeit quick, assumption of responsibility, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that it had been an "unintentional attack" by Israeli forces.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, yesterday demanded from Israel "an impartial, quick and thorough investigation".

According to WCK, his team, made up of aid workers from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Palestine and a person with dual US-Canadian nationality, traveled through a "non-conflict zone" in three vehicles, two of they armored, with the logo of the oenagé. The convoy was attacked just as it was leaving the warehouse in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, where they had unloaded more than 100 tons of food from the second shipment of aid arriving through the sea corridor enabled from Cyprus.

José Andrés, a Spanish chef naturalized in the United States, lamented the death of his colleagues, whom he knew from having worked together on other missions in the past, and called on Israel to "stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and humanitarian workers and stop using food as a weapon," Andres wrote on social media.

“This is an attack on humanitarian organizations that appear in the most appalling situations where food is used as a weapon of war. It is unforgivable", reiterated the general director of the organization, Erin Gore. The UNGA decided to immediately suspend its operations in Gaza. The ships, which had arrived there on Monday, began their return to Cyprus with 240 tons of unloaded aid, informed the Cypriot Government, president of this country, assured, however, that sea shipments to Gaza will go ahead despite the organization's withdrawal.

According to the images released, one of the organization's vehicles, which was hit on the road that connects Deir al-Balah to Khan Iunis, showed a huge hole in the roof, which corroborated that it had been attacked from the air.

In an apologetic message, the Israeli army explained that it had spoken personally to Andrés to express its condolences to him and to all "allied" countries that have lost a citizen in the attack, according to its spokesman, Daniel Hagari. The military also highlighted the work of the humanitarian group, with which, he said, the army has collaborated during the conflict. "The organization also helped the Israelis after the attacks of October 7", he emphasized.

The "serious incident," Hagari added, will be investigated by the Fact-Finding and Assessment Mechanism, the same body that examined the so-called "flour massacre," in which 118 Palestinians died on February 29. who were waiting for the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Netanyahu, for his part, justified the error in a video: "This happens in times of war. We are investigating it thoroughly, we are in contact with the governments (of the victims' countries) and we will do everything possible to ensure that it does not happen again."

Since the conflict broke out in the strip following the attack on October 7, WCK, with its 15-year history, has distributed 43 million food rations in the region (Israel, Lebanon and Gaza), according to the organization However, its most important effort in the strip took shape in March with the opening of a maritime route in collaboration with a ship from the Catalan oenagé Open Arms and the support of the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

Last week, one of the victims of the attack, the Australian Zomi Frankcom, had presented on social networks the work of the oenagé in one of the kitchens set up in Deir al-Balah. "Zomi has been killed while doing the work she loves: delivering food to the people of Gaza," said the family of the 42-year-old aid worker in a statement picked up by Australian media. Australia's prime minister, Anthony Albanese, called Frankcom's death, and that of his teammates, "completely unacceptable" and called for "accountability" for these deaths. The other dead aid workers identified are Polish Damian Sobol and Gazan Saif Issam Abu Taha, who was driving one of the vehicles.

The United States has promoted the sea route as a new way to deliver aid to northern Gaza, where the situation is desperate and, according to the UN, much of the population is on the brink of starvation. Israel's army keeps this area isolated from the rest of the territory, despite humanitarian organizations asking it to allow the massive entry of aid through the land crossings (south of the strip), where the flow of trucks is held back by strict controls.

Israel has banned UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine Refugees and Gaza's main source of aid, from making deliveries to the north. Humanitarian organizations have been warning for months that sending convoys of trucks into the area is too dangerous, as the army has failed to guarantee safe passage. WCK aid workers are the first foreign aid workers killed in the Gaza war. But casualties in the humanitarian aid group are much higher. UNRWA reported in its latest report the death of 173 of its local employees. Médecins sans Frontières and other groups have also reported layoffs among their staff.