Tuesday, 21 May 2024

BEST OF THE WEB: Israeli strike kills foreign aid workers in Gaza - NGO

Gaza, bombed vehicle, World Central Kitchen NGO
© AFPA vehicle of the World Central Kitchen NGO destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in the city of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip.
Seven aid workers, including four foreigners, providing meals for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) have been killed in a "targeted attack" by Israeli forces in Gaza, the NGO, founded by Spanish-American celebrity chef Jose Andres, has said.

All of the group's operations in the Palestinian enclave have been suspended following the Monday incident, it added.

Five fatalities were reported initially as a result of the airstrike, but WCK announced an updated death toll in a statement on Tuesday. The victims include a dual US-Canadian citizen, three Palestinians, an Australian, a Pole and a British national, the group said.

According to the NGO, its staff members were attacked in the town of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza as they were leaving a warehouse after unloading tons of food aid earlier delivered to the Palestinian enclave by sea.

The aid workers were traveling through a de-conflicted zone in two armored cars with the WCK logo on them as well as a soft skin vehicle, the NGO said. The convoy was struck despite WCK coordinating its movements with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the statement read.

"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," WCK CEO Erin Gore said.

Videos from the scene of the attack show the bodies of several people in World Central Kitchen vests. British, Polish and Australian passports were also seen in the clips.

Andres wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he was "heartbroken" by what had happened. The Michelin-starred chef urged the Israeli government to stop its "indiscriminate killing," restriction of humanitarian aid and "using food as a weapon" in Gaza.

Australia has confirmed that one of its citizens was killed in the IDF strike, with the country's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese saying that Canberra "expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers, which is completely unacceptable."

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson wrote on X that Washington was "deeply troubled" by the deaths of the WCK staff. "We urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened," Watson said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that the IDF was behind the airstrike that killed the aid workers, but is insisting that it was an accident.

"Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip," he said on Tuesday, speaking from a hospital where he underwent a surgery for hernia.

"It happens in war," Netanyahu said of the incident, promising that it will be thoroughly investigated. "We will do everything so that this thing does not happen again," the PM added.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said last month that 165 of its workers have been killed since October 7, when the IDF began its attacks on Gaza in response to an incursion into Israel by Hamas, in which at least 1,200 were killed and 250 taken hostage. The death toll from Israel's airstrikes and ground offensive in Gaza has already reached 32,845 people, according to the enclave's health ministry.
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