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'Happens in war': Netanyahu says Israeli airstrike that killed 7 aid workers in Gaza 'unintended'

The Israeli military has expressed "sincere sorrow" over the deaths of aid workers and pledged an independent probe into the incident. The World Central Kitchen, which has supplied 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days, has suspended operations after the attack.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Jerusalem Published on: April 02, 2024 22:21 IST
Israel, benjamin netanyahu, Israeli airstrike, aid workers killed
Image Source : AP (FILE) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the Israeli strike that killed seven international aid workers in Gaza was "unintended and tragic", adding that this happens in war and his administration will be conducting a thorough inquiry into this incident. The workers belonged to World Central Kitchen (WCK) run by celebrity chef Jose Andres.

The Israeli military confirmed the deadly strike on a WCK convoy that killed citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. WCK said they were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the charity's logo and another vehicle. The organisation has suspended operations in Gaza in wake of the attack.

"Unfortunately in the past day, there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence," Netanyahu said in a video statement.

An official in Cyprus says aid ships that arrived in Gaza this week will return to the Mediterranean island nation carrying some 240 tonnes of undelivered aid after a deadly strike killed the seven aid workers. Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said on Tuesday that around 100 tons of aid had been unloaded before WCK suspended operations.

Israeli military expresses sincere sorrow

Despite coordinating movements with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the convoy was hit as it was leaving its Deir al-Balah warehouse after unloading more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by sea, WCK said. "This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable," said Erin Gore, chief executive of WCK.

The Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of the "tragic incident". The IDF expressed "sincere sorrow" over the death of the WCK workers while stopping short of accepting responsibility. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the top military spokesperson, pledged an investigation by "an independent, professional and expert body" which will "help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again".

Footage showed the bodies, several wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo, at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Three aid ships from the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus arrived earlier Monday carrying some 400 tons of food and supplies organized by the charity and the United Arab Emirates, the group’s second shipment after a pilot run last month.

What is World Central Kitchen?

Founded in 2010, World Central Kitchen delivers freshly prepared meals to people in need following natural disasters, like hurricanes or earthquakes, or to those enduring conflict. The group has also provided meals to migrants arriving at the southern US border, as well as to hospital staff who worked relentlessly during the coronavirus pandemic.

WCK delivers food relief and prepares meals for people in need. It said last month it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days. It was involved in the first shipment of aid to Gaza via a sea corridor from Cyprus in March. A second WCK maritime aid shipment of 332 tons arrived in Gaza early this week.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had spoken directly to close ally Israel's government and "urged a swift, thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened". Blinken, speaking to reporters in Paris, added that humanitarian workers must be protected.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the death of 44-year-old aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom and said his government had contacted Israel to demand those responsible be held accountable. "This is a human tragedy that should never have occurred, that is completely unacceptable and Australia will seek full and proper accountability," he told a press conference on Tuesday. Poland abd Britain have all demanded action and called for an investigation.

As the war nears six months, the United Nations and other international groups have accused Israel of hindering aid distribution with bureaucratic obstacles and failing to ensure the security of food convoys, underlined by a disaster on February 29, in which around 100 people were killed as they waited for aid delivery.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Israeli airstrike kills seven workers of international aid group in Gaza, military expresses sorrow

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