"It was a car-by-car attack"

"Identification error", as the Israeli army officially said, or the result that "each commander establishes his own rules", as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published yesterday citing military sources.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
03 April 2024 Wednesday 11:17
6 Reads
"It was a car-by-car attack"

"Identification error", as the Israeli army officially said, or the result that "each commander establishes his own rules", as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published yesterday citing military sources. In any case, Israel used three rockets, probably fired by a drone, in the attack on the convoy of the US oenagé World Central Kitchen ( WCK ), founded by Spanish chef José Andrés, in central Gaza on Monday at night. One projectile for each vehicle.

José Andrés insisted yesterday 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". He had previously 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 by the "Israeli army".

The bombing killed seven humanitarian workers affiliated with the organization that distributes food and prepared food in the strip, citizens of Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Palestine and one with dual nationality (from the United States and Canada). The bodies of six were evacuated to Egypt via the Rafah crossing yesterday.

"I want to be very clear," said the chief of staff of the Israeli army, Herzi Halevi, presenting preliminary conclusions of what had happened. "The attack was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK humanitarian workers. It was a mistake due to a mistaken identification: at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. It shouldn't have happened," he said.

The version offered by the newspaper Haaretz reveals that the military suspected that a terrorist was in the caravan, since minutes before it left they had detected an armed man in a truck. However, both the truck and the individual, who was probably armed for security reasons during the food distribution, remained at the warehouse in Deir al-Balah 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 road, which connects Deir al-Balah with the southern coastal strip, despite the fact that the vehicles were clearly marked with the organization's logo and that the group had given the information about the time and route they would take to the Israeli army, the World Central Kitchen claimed.

The attack lasted several minutes, as a first rocket hit the vehicle leading the convoy, and the survivors ran to take shelter 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 received another shot. 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 by 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 newspaper - according to which the culture of "shoot first, ask questions later" is gaining ground in the army - and the prestigious Israeli analyst Barak Ravid, who recalled that "it is not an isolated incident, expressed the same sentiment ”, alluding to the death of three white flag hostages by army shots, and pointed out that “every commander has a different interpretation of orders”.

In any case, the road to Al-Raixid is considered a "high risk area" by the United Nations due to the incidents recorded so far. The UN announced yesterday 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 of them members of UNRWA, the United Nations' Palestine Refugee Agency.

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

Herzi Halevi promised that the army will "learn" from the findings of the "thorough investigation" to be carried out in the coming days, implement immediate measures and share the findings with the WCK and other relevant international organizations.

Meanwhile, international pressure was mounting to demand an explanation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, spoke personally to the Israeli leader about the death of three of the aid workers, who had British nationality. For his part, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, regretted 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 fast, it must demand accountability and its conclusions must be made public", although he stated 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 its reaction [by the Israelis] generate understandable anger [...]. You cannot minimize the case by saying that these things happen in war, as Netanyahu said." The Israeli prime minister spoke on Tuesday of an "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 "quick" investigation, who spoke of "murder at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces".

The seven dead are the Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Aiad Abutaha, the Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, the Polish Damian Soból, the Canadian-American Jacob Flickinger and the British John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby.