Israeli military says killing of World Central Kitchen workers 'a grave mistake'

WCK demands independent investigation and says Israel 'cannot credibly investigate its own failures'

Charity boss Jose Andres says Israel targeted staff in Gaza

Charity boss Jose Andres says Israel targeted staff in Gaza
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The Israeli military said its killing of seven aid workers was a “grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to mistaken identification” in its report into the incident, but the charity whose staff were killed has called for an independent investigation.

A Palestinian and six foreign citizens distributing aid for the World Central Kitchen in Gaza were killed in a series of strikes carried out by the Israeli military on Monday.

Their deaths provoked international condemnation, including from Israel's allies, and prompted calls for an independent investigation.

The Israeli military released its own report on Friday.

“The investigation’s findings indicate that the incident should not have occurred,” read the report.

“Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the standard operating procedures.”

The report added that the brigade fire support commander and the brigade chief of staff will be dismissed from their positions over the incident. Two other commanders will also be “formally reprimanded”.

The investigation claimed that the Israeli military officers had identified two gunmen in a convoy of aid lorries that were part of the WCK operation to distribute humanitarian aid in Gaza.

The vehicles unloaded aid into a warehouse in Deir Al Balah, in central Gaza, before setting off along the coastal road.

The report claimed that after the aid had been unloaded, one of the military commanders “assumed that the gunmen were located inside the accompanying vehicles and that these were Hamas terrorists”.

It said that the officer did not realise the vehicles belonged to WCK, and authorised the strikes in “serious violation of the commands and IDF standard operating procedures”.

Israel must change how it is carrying out the Gaza war or face consequences, White House says

Israel must change how it is carrying out the Gaza war or face consequences, White House says

Allies of Israel, including US President Joe Biden, had called for an investigation into the aid workers' deaths.

“I am outraged and heart-broken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, including one American, in Gaza,” said Mr Biden on Tuesday.

“Investigation must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public,” he said.

WCK responded to the Israeli report with a repeated call for an independent, third-party investigation into whether the Israeli military deliberately killed its staff or breached international law.

“We demand the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of our WCK colleagues. The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” a statement from the charity said on Friday.

It said that the “root cause” of the incident was the “severe lack of food in Gaza”.

“Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families,” it said.

“An independent investigation is the only way to determine the truth of what happened, ensure transparency and accountability for those responsible, and prevent future attacks on humanitarian aid workers,” an earlier statement from the charity said.

WCK said that the three vehicles were hit despite it having co-ordinated their movements with the Israeli military. This co-ordination was not mentioned in the Israeli report.

“This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles. All three vehicles were carrying civilians; they were marked as WCK vehicles; and their movements were in full compliance with Israeli authorities, who were aware of their itinerary, route, and humanitarian mission,” the group said.

Images from the aftermath of the attacks showed that the vehicles were clearly marked with WCK logos. One of the strikes pierced the top of the car straight through the WCK logo.

WCK's founder, Jose Andres, accused Israel of targeting the three vehicles, which were hit in three different strikes, “systematically, car by car”.

The seven victims were from Australia, Poland, the UK, Palestine, as well as a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

A total of 203 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began in October, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

The vast majority – 176 – were employees of UNRWA, the UN's relief agency for Palestine refugees, which Israel has tried to shut down after claiming some of its staff participated in the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on October 7.

Aid groups said Israel has made it too dangerous to deliver aid to Gaza, where much of the population faces famine.

Several groups, including WCK, suspended aid deliveries following Monday's deadly strikes.

“Gaza has become one of the world’s most dangerous areas, with civilians and aid workers facing unprecedented risks and indiscriminate attacks, in what amount to gross and systemic violations of international law,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council in a statement on Friday, as it called for an arms embargo on Israel.

The Israeli military's conduct in Gaza has come under increasing criticism.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them by Israeli air strikes, in six months of war.

The majority of those killed are civilians, with the UN describing the level of civilian death as “unparalleled and unprecedented”.

A recent report, denied by the Israeli military, said the country's intelligence officers had authorised strikes that would kill 15 to 20 civilians for just one junior Hamas operative, based on an artificial intelligence system that it knew it lacked accuracy in identifying Hamas members as targets.

In one case, the report said that military intelligence officers had authorised the killing of “over 100" civilians in a strike targeting a senior Hamas commander.

Updated: April 05, 2024, 12:08 PM