update deskIsrael at War

Netanyahu confirms IDF unintentional strike on aid workers

"Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip."

Palestinians outside a car after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinians outside a car after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday confirmed that an unintentional IDF strike killed seven aid workers in the Gaza Strip the previous night.

“Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” the premier said in a video message announcing his release from Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem following successful hernia surgery.

“It happens in war, we are thoroughly investigating it, we are in contact with the governments and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again,” Netanyahu continued.

The IDF took full responsibility for the incident.

The World Central Kitchen NGO said on Tuesday morning that members of its staff were killed in a strike on their vehicles in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. According to the organization, the strike occurred after the aid workers had assisted in delivering food and other supplies to northern Gaza that had arrived hours earlier by ship from Cyprus.

“Last night, an incident took place in Gaza that resulted in the tragic death of World Central Kitchen employees as they fulfilled their vital mission of bringing food to people in need,” IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a video announcement in English on Tuesday.

“As a professional military committed to international law, we are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently,” he continued, reiterating an earlier IDF statement that the incident is under review “at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of what happened and how it happened.

“We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. This will help us reduce the risk of such an event occurring again,” he said, explaining further that the investigation will be conducted by the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism, an independent body of professionals and experts.

Following an operational assessment on Tuesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant instructed the IDF to establish a team of professionals to investigate the circumstances of the incident; open a joint situation room to coordinate with aid organizations; support distribution mechanisms by allocating resources; and brief international partners regarding the details of the incident and actions being taken.

OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman will on Tuesday night present to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi the findings of an initial investigation into the incident.

Preliminary information indicates that a remotely-operated air force craft attacked three vehicles of the aid organization, according to Ynet.

Halevi will also update the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Michael Kurilla, on the strike.

The initial probe will be released to the public in the coming days, while the more in-depth investigation continues.

“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,” World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in a statement.

According to the U.S. charity, founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres and one of the major donors to Gaza relief, those killed included foreign nationals from Australia, Poland and the United Kingdom, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and local Gazan employees.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday confirmed the death of 44-year-old Australian aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom.

“This is a human tragedy that should never have occurred, that is completely unacceptable and Australia will seek full and proper accountability,” said Albanese during a press conference.

In a statement released late on Monday, the IDF said, “Following the reports regarding the World Central Kitchen personnel in Gaza today, the IDF is conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” the statement continued.

WCK said that the workers were attacked “despite coordinating movements with the IDF” and that the staff members were “traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.”

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement early Tuesday that the United States was “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the incident, and called for a swift probe into the incident.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed,” Watson said.

The NGO said that it was immediately halting its work in Gaza in light of the incident. “Soon we will make decisions about the future of our work,” said WCK.

Israel is facilitating WCK food shipments from Cyprus as part of a pilot program. It was the second shipment of hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid that had set sail from the port of Larnaca in recent weeks.

Hagari said that he spoke to Andres and offered his condolences on behalf of the IDF.

World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“We will get to the bottom of this and we will share our findings transparently,” he said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz also weighed in on the incident on Tuesday, offering his sympathies “to the countries and families of the World Central Kitchen aid organization workers who were killed in Gaza.”

Katz continued, “The IDF and decision-makers are doing and will do everything to prevent harm to civilians. The incident will be investigated by qualified authorities to ensure that necessary conclusions are drawn to guarantee the safety and security of aid workers going forward.”

Halevi will soon inaugurate a new command center with the Defense Ministry’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit to better coordinate humanitarian aid activities in the Gaza Strip.

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