Israeli allies angered by deadly World Central Kitchen strike, as Gaza food aid left in doubt

Some of Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, have condemned the deaths of seven aid workers who were killed by airstrikes in Gaza — a loss that prompted multiple charities to suspend food deliveries to Palestinians on the brink of starvation.

The deaths of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers threatened to set back efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus to help ease the desperate conditions in northern Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an unusually blunt criticism of Israel by its closest ally, suggesting that the incident demonstrated that Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” he said, adding he was “outraged and heartbroken” by their killings.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he added. “The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

WATCH l Palestinian feels ‘hopelessness’ after latest blow to food aid delivery:

Palestinians dependent on food aid ‘will suffer a lot’ after strike kills workers

After World Central Kitchen said it would pause operations in the region after an Israeli airstrike killed seven international aid workers, Palestinians who relied on the charity for food lamented the impact it will have on people in Gaza.

The White House said Biden spoke by phone with celebrity chef José Andrés, who founded World Central Kitchen, to express his condolences.

Andrés said he was “heartbroken” by the deaths of the staffers.

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

‘Escalating risks’ with aid delivery

Several humanitarian aid organizations suspended operations in Gaza on Tuesday, including WCK, and the U.S.   expressed concern that the killings could have a chilling impact on other groups carrying out aid operations in the territory.

Anera, a Washington-based aid group that has been operating in the Palestinian territories for decades, said it was taking the “unprecedented” step of pausing its Gaza operations, which involve providing around 150,000 meals daily.

“The escalating risks associated with aid delivery leave us with no choice,” it said in a statement.

Two outstretched arms are shown, wearing white gloves and holding three passports.
A man displays blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after the Israeli airstrike, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Monday. Six international aid workers with the World Central Kitchen charity and their Palestinian driver were killed. (Abdel Kareem Hana/The Associated Press)

Among the dead were citizens of some of Israel’s closest allies, including Jacob Flickinger, a U.S.-Canada dual citizen. The UN says more than 180 humanitarian workers have been killed in the war so far, which was started Oct. 7 when militants led by Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by several Western nations, launched attacks in southern Israel.

Ships still laden with some 218 tonnes of aid from the charitable group turned back from Gaza just a day after arriving, according to Cyprus. Other humanitarian aid organizations also suspended operations in Gaza, saying it was too dangerous to offer help.

The dead from Monday night’s strikes also included three British citizens, Polish and Australia nationals, and a Palestinian. They were all identified in an Instagram post from World Central Kitchen.

State media in Cairo said the bodies of the six foreign aid workers were driven across the Gaza border at the Rafah crossing on Wednesday into Egypt, as part of their eventual repatriation.

The hit on the charity’s convoy highlighted what critics have called Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza.

Israel’s military chief, Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, announced the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification — at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He gave no further details. He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier acknowledged the “unintended strike … on innocent people” and said officials would work to ensure it does not happen again.

Israel suspected militants were nearby

World Central Kitchen said it had co-ordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of its cars. Three vehicles moving at large distances apart were hit in succession. They were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.

Israeli TV said the initial military investigation found that the army identified the cars carrying World Central Kitchen’s workers arriving at its warehouse in Deir al-Balah and observed suspected militants nearby. Half an hour later, the vehicles were struck by the air force as they headed south. The reports said it was not clear who ordered the strikes or why.

The deaths sent a further chill through UN agencies and other aid groups that have said for months that sending truck convoys around Gaza — particularly in the north — has been extremely difficult. Israel has barred UNRWA, the main UN agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north.

The U.S. and other countries have been working to set up the sea passage from Cyprus to get around the difficulties.

World Central Kitchen was key to the new route. It and the United Arab Emirates sent a pilot shipment last month. Their second delivery of around 362 tonnes of food and supplies arrived in three ships to Gaza hours before the strikes on the convoy.

UN condemns Israeli strike in Syria

The U.S., Britain, Poland, Australia and Canada all called on Israel to give answers on the deaths.

But anger among its allies could put new pressure on Israel, which is facing international criticism of the Gaza assault has mounted. On the same day as the deadly airstrikes, Israel stirred more fears by apparently striking Iran’s consulate in Damascus and killing two Iranian generals. 

UN Secretary General António Guterres  condemned the attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria.

Guterres said “the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises and personnel must be respected in all cases in accordance with international law,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday.

At Iran’s request, the UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss that attack.

Several people are seen in a crowd, some appear to be yelling while others in uniform hold them back. Several Israeli flags are shown in the nighttime scene in the background.
Police try to push back demonstrators on Tuesday night in Jerusalem in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group. (Ohad Zwigenberg/The Associated Press)

Israel has repeatedly targeted military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza and along Israel’s border with Lebanon.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, according to Israeli government tallies. Several Canadian citizens were killed as a result. 

Some 250 hostages were taken, with Israel believing some 130 remain in captivity, though not all are still alive. 

More than 32,900 Palestinians have been killed in the war, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its overall count.

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