Israel calls airstrike on aid convoy ‘tragic incident’, international community demands explanation

Israel calls airstrike on aid convoy ‘tragic incident’, international community demands explanation
Israel calls airstrike on aid convoy ‘tragic incident’, international community demands explanation
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Tuesday of a ‘tragic incident’. It is still being investigated why the airstrike, which Netanyahu said was “accidental”, was carried out on the cars of the American aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK). “This is happening in wartime,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “We will do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The international community is not satisfied with that explanation. The United Kingdom has summoned the Israeli ambassador in London and demanded a ‘swift and transparent investigation’. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron called the deaths of seven aid workers “completely unacceptable” and demanded that Israel take serious steps to ensure the safety of aid workers. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, called on Israel on Tuesday to hold the perpetrators accountable as soon as possible.

Three victims have British nationality. The dead also included an Australian aid worker, a Polish volunteer, a Palestinian driver and translator and an aid worker with American-Canadian nationality. The employees were killed when their vehicles were hit after delivering food and other aid in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

‘Targeted attack’

Soon after the deadly attack, WCK pointed the finger at Israel. The aid organization decided on Tuesday to suspend aid in Gaza with immediate effect and it remains to be seen whether it will be restarted. The ships that were still on their way with food aid have turned back. WCK is the only aid organization that delivers emergency aid to the Palestinian population by sea.

According to WCK, the convoy was the target of a “targeted attack” by the Israeli army. The aid organization wrote in a statement that the employees rode in two armored vehicles, clearly marked with the WCK logo. Their journey was also coordinated with the Israeli army. The employees had recently left a warehouse where they had delivered 100 tons of food and other humanitarian supplies brought in by sea.

A video published by Palestinian media shows a large hole in the roof of one vehicle. A second vehicle from the convoy was completely burned out. “This is not just an attack on WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations that show up in the most dire situations where food is used as a weapon of war,” said CEO Erin Gore. “This is unforgivable.”

Full explanation demanded

Just hours before the deadly attack, Sigrid Kaag, as UN humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, met with the World Central Kitchen team. The UN called on Tuesday ‘again’ for an immediate ceasefire. According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, at least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in the occupied Palestinian territories since the start of the war and that this is “the inevitable consequence of the way this war is being waged.”

According to spokesman John Kirby, the White House is ‘furious’ about the attack and points to Israel’s responsibility to protect aid workers. “I hope and demand that the Israeli government clarify as soon as possible the circumstances surrounding this brutal attack that claimed the lives of seven aid workers who did nothing but help,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said after a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also demanded ‘full accountability’ from Israel. The Polish government has launched its own investigation into the death of a Polish volunteer. “Poland objects to the disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers,” the foreign ministry said.

The Israeli military initially said it was conducting “a thorough investigation at the highest level” to “understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.” It would not confirm whether Israeli planes, drones or helicopters were responsible for the attack. Later, army spokesman Daniel Hagari said an “independent, expert body” would investigate the attack.

Maritime corridor

Initial investigation results therefore show that Israel was behind the attack. Hagari said he spoke with WCK founder, Spanish-American chef Jose Andrés, to offer condolences to the victims’ families. “We also express our sincere condolences for this loss to our allies who have done and continue to do so much to help those in need,” Hagari said.

Last month, World Central Kitchen announced it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza in 175 days. WCK delivers food aid from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip by boat and is involved in the construction of a temporary jetty. This newly opened maritime corridor allowed the first convoy to dock in mid-March and be unloaded under the supervision of the Israeli army. At the time of that attack, only a third of the relief convoy had been unloaded, approximately 100 of the total 332 tons.

Israel says it has always ‘worked closely with WCK’ for the distribution of aid to the people of Gaza. “WCK’s work is critical,” Hagari said. Andrés lashed out at Israel on X: ‘They must stop limiting humanitarian aid, killing civilians and aid workers and using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace begins with our shared humanity. That has to start now.’

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Israel calls airstrike aid convoy tragic incident international community demands explanation

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